Published on: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On October 2nd, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), David Perdue (R-GA), and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2017.  According to their press release, the bill would “strengthen criminal intent protections in federal law” by setting “a default intent standard for all criminal laws and regulations that lack such a standard.”  This legislation is designed to “ensure that courts and creative prosecutors do not take the absence of a criminal intent standard to mean that the government can obtain a conviction without any proof [of] a guilty mind.”                                            

In support, Senator Hatch gave a speech on the floor of the Senate yesterday, stating among other things: “Like many of my colleagues, I believe Congress has criminalized far too much conduct and has mandated overly harsh penalties for too many crimes.  A number of my colleagues have sought to address these problems by cutting prison sentences, altering statutory minimums, or releasing prisoners earlier for good behavior.  But as we seek to reform the criminal justice system, we must be careful not to overlook one of the major roots of the problem: the lack of adequate criminal intent requirements in federal criminal statutes.”