In late 2014, the House Judiciary Committee's Overcriminalization Task Force is expected to release a final report on federal overcriminalization. The Task Force has been studying the issue for over a year, and had held several hearings on a lack of a mens rea requirement in many federal statutes, as well as regulatory offenses that carry criminal sanctions. Several experts have recommended that Congress enact a default mens rea provision similar to the Model Penal Code (MPC). This Comment explores the issue of mens rea at the federal level and the federal courts' understanding of mens rea in federal criminal offenses. Also, the Comment discusses the federal courts' interpretation and use of the rule of lenity to interpret statutes that are silent as to mens rea for an offense. Further, this Comment reviews the MPC's default mens rea provision and analyzes the application of these provisions in Illinois, Oregon, and Texas. The Comment analyzes the potential effectiveness of two proposed recommendations that urge Congress to enact legislation that would codify the rule of lenity and enact some form of a default mens rea provision. Ultimately, this Comment proposes legislative language that could be used for a federal default mens rea provision.
Searching for Culpability, Punishing the Guilty, and Protecting the Innocent: Should Congress Look to the Model Penal Code to Stem the Tide of Federal Overcriminalization?,
Cath. U. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.edu/lawreview/vol63/iss4/5