The U.S. Congress Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on over-criminalization. One of the focal cases involves a man named Abner Shoenwetter. He was a seafood broker that was convicted of buying lobster tails for the purpose of re-sale that violated Honduran harvest regulations. The businessman served six years in federal prison and was also issued a $10,000.00 fine for his violation of the Federal Lacey Act! Another case that came up concerns a snowmobiler that was lost in snow drifts and faced six months in jail and a $5,000.00 fine for operating his snowmobile in a wildlife reserve.
As it appears, Congress will be looking at whether there are more effective means of attaining compliance with its laws short of criminalizing what many would view as reasonable activity. As U.S. prisons and even state jails are faced with serious over-population issues, and federal and states are re-thinking how our tax dollars are spent, Congress is on the right track. Many offenses would be better dealt with by issuing a fine or ordering some sort of community service that goes along with restitution. Courts have also attempted to assist would-be litigants that are faced with charges that come with draconian sentences.
Our local District Court recently established a mediation program where criminal cases can be mediated in response to the legal community's call for a program that would better suit prompt and fair resolutions short of litigation. But, obviously, both sides of the aisle have to agree to enter the program, in turn, cases that may seem appropriate for mediation won't be accepted if the District Attorney's Office does not agree to participate. Therefore, court alternative programs won't always provide an acceptable fix.
Looking towards fixing the over-criminalization of acts (prohibited acts) is a step in the right direction and should be applauded. To find out more about Mr. Shoenwetter's case, visit the following link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/10/03/1855997/congress-looks-at-laws-that-criminalize.html