House Judiciary Committee unveils decriminalization bills

As part of the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing effort to address criminal justice reform, members of the panel unveiled four bills aimed at addressing over-criminalization.

The four bills are set to be marked up Wednesday morning by the full committee, along with the Sentencing Reform Act, whose corresponding Senate bill passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee late last month.

"Over the past few decades, the federal criminal code has expanded dramatically. The bills introduced by several of our colleagues make commonsense changes to the federal criminal code to ensure our laws fit within the overall federal criminal law scheme, are appropriate in force relative to other criminal laws, require that a person must intend to commit a crime in order to be criminally liable for that crime, and are necessary. We look forward to moving these bills through the committee soon," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Ranking Member John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a joint statement Tuesday during introduction of the four bills.

Here are the bills introduced:

  • Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015: Creates a default federal mens rea standard when federal law does not provide guidelines for determining whether a person's mental state enables them to be charged with a federal crime
  • Regulatory Reporting Act of 2015: Requires every federal agency to submit a report to Congress listing and describing each rule of that agency that, if violated, may be punishable by criminal penalties
  • Clean Up The Code Act of 2015: Eliminates several offenses considered criminal, such as the unauthorized use of the 4-H emblem or the interstate transportation of dentures
  • Fix the Footnotes Act of 2015: Cleans up typographical errors and unclear sections of errors made by Congress when originally drafting criminal laws