Congress’ vague laws


Author: Timothy Sandefur

The Heritage Foundation has released an important new report on the vagueness of many of the criminal laws that Congress has enacted. Laws that are imprecisely worded are, of course, a great danger to innocent people who might find themselves in violation of a law without realizing it. But they’re also dangerous because they give government officials arbitrary power to bully citizens and businesses to comply with their demands. Such laws allow District Attorneys and others to threaten you with prosecution if you don’t do something that the government wants—and even if, in the end you’d succeed in defending yourself, it would cost tremendous time and money to do so.

That’s the issue PLF briefed in Skilling v. United States, now pending before the Supreme Court. I attended the oral argument in that case in March, and shared some thoughts on it here.