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Tag: mens rea

October 25, 2018

Victory: Activists’ effort to worsen overcriminalization ends with a whimper

In 2013, several environmental activist groups launched a lawsuit to expand the criminal reach of the Endangered Species Act. They challenged the United States’ longstanding interpretation of the statutes, which makes it a crime to “knowingly” “take” a protected species, to require defendants know their actions will ca ...

May 11, 2018

Don’t know how to identify every one of the 1,500 endangered species? This group wants to throw you in prison.

Ok, that’s a slight overstatement. But not as much of one as you would think. Activist group WildEarth Guardians apparently dreams of a world in which people can be thrown in federal prison if they accidentally hit the wrong rodent scurrying across a dark highway, disturb the wrong insect while building a tree house, or ...

October 19, 2017

PLF continues fight against overcriminalization

Most people have heard of William Blackstone’s principle that it is better that many guilty people escape punishment than that a single innocent person be imprisoned, even if they haven’t heard of Blackstone himself. This ancient value underlies the presumption of innocence in our criminal law and many other cherished protections we pro ...

March 23, 2017

PLF defends against overcriminalization under the Endangered Species Act

William Blackstone famously said “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.” Today, the criminal law honors that venerable principle by forbidding anyone from being criminally punished unless they commit an illegal act with a blameworthy state of mind. That’s why mens rea (or guilty mind) is an element ...

December 05, 2016

The fight against overcriminalization continues

Last week, PLF’s motion to intervene was granted in a case threatening to radically expand criminal liability under the Endangered Species Act. As you may recall, we represent several southwestern agricultural organizations who, like pretty much everyone else, face the prospect of imprisonment for innocent mistakes if this case succeeds.  ...

October 27, 2016

Not everything should be a crime

Over at The Daily Caller, I have an editorial discussing how the federal government’s hypocritical decision against prosecuting the EPA officials responsible for the Animas River spill highlights the urgent need to address overcriminalization. The decision, made by prosecutors who wouldn't hesitate to throw the book at ordinary people, was im ...

December 07, 2015

Mens rea and DOJ opposition to criminal justice reform

As you may recall, PLF has moved to intervene in WildEarth Guardians v. DOJ, a case in which environmental groups seek to radically expand the criminal reach of the Endangered Species Act, contrary to its language and common sense. Ultimately, the case seeks to subject anyone who accidentally does anything that, unbeknownst to them, negatively ...

September 10, 2015

The lesson of the Animas River spill

In the Wall Street Journal, attorney and former high-ranking EPA official Bill Wehrum has an op-ed $ arguing that the Animas River spill shouldn’t lead to criminal punishment, but neither should similar accidents caused by private companies. As you’ll undoubtedly recall, last month workers for EPA accidentally breached an abandoned mine ...

April 15, 2015

The end of innocents

An 11-year old girl saved a woodpecker from a cat and nursed it back to health. A father and son searched for arrowheads while camping. A middle schooler ate some french fries on the subway. A snowmobiler got lost for two days in a blizzard and almost died. These stories have one thing in common–they all constitute crimes. ...

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