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  • Senator Rand Paul Gets It Right on Overcriminalization

    Apparently, Members of Congress have not been reading our Overcriminalization blogs. How do we know this? Because the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act (IFSEA) is the embodiment of much of what our blogs have highlighted is wrong with legislation.

    The Senate sponsors of IFSEA didn’t have the votes to pass it as a standalone bill when it was introduced in January 2011, so they tried to attach it to an appropriations bill, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012. They did this believing the appropriations bill had a better chance of becoming law. Appropriations bills should, of course, not include new substantive laws.

    IFSEA was purportedly designed to help with the enforcement of international fishing standards, but that is not all it does. The IFSEA would also:

    • Increase without justification already severe criminal penalties;
    • Expand the authority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to promulgate new regulations that provide for criminal penalties for violations; and
    • Provide NOAA with additional funding for law enforcement purposes.

    Thanks to the resolve of Senator Rand Paul (R–KY), IFSEA was removed from the Coast Guard Authorization Act. Senator Paul should be applauded for being concerned about overcriminalization, for practicing what he preaches, and for protecting the public against bad public policy.

    Under the proposed law, penalties for 12 statutes that deal with fishing conservation (who can fish, where they can fish, which fish can be caught, how many can be caught, etc.) would have increased from six months in jail to up to five years. While we realize that many elected officials wish to portray themselves as “tough on crime” and “deeply committed to the environment,” isn’t the possibility of a six-month prison sentence and hefty criminal fines a sufficient deterrent already? Is it really necessary to threaten people with going to jail for five years because they fished in the wrong area, caught the wrong kind of fish, or exceeded their legal catch limit?

    IFSEA would have given NOAA an additional $30 million per year to implement the program. NOAA already has a long history of abusing its power by threatening fishermen—and now marine biologists—with prison time in order to squeeze huge fines out of them.

    No fewer than six inspector general reports, dating back to 1998, have criticized NOAA’s enforcement function. Three of them have specifically recommended that NOAA’s criminal investigative capacity be reduced. In a January 2010 report, the inspector general stated:

    While we recognize [the Office of Law Enforcement’s] need to maintain a criminal investigative capacity, its caseload reflects that its current staffing is disproportionate to agency function and operational need, particularly compared with other agencies with similar mission profiles and enforcement responsibilities.

    In light of these recommendations and NOAA’s checkered enforcement history, giving them additional authority and more public money to engage in questionable enforcement practices strikes us as misguided.

    The statute would also have allowed NOAA to adopt any regulation “as may be necessary to carry out this section or any Act to which this section applies.”

    Translation: “We think this is bad but don’t know what to do, so you, agency regulators, should deal with this issue however you see fit.” We should expect to see a large number of punts during the football season, but we prefer to see them in a football stadium on the weekends, not in Congress during the work week.

    It is estimated that there are currently more than 300,000 criminal regulations buried within the Code of Federal Regulations. As things stand, it is already impossible for anyone to know all or even nearly all of these criminal laws that could potentially land someone in prison. Were it to pass, IFSEA would only add to this problem.

    In short, IFSEA would exacerbate the already massive overcriminalization problem. Thank you, Senator Paul, for standing strong and stopping the passage of this bill. You have kept innocent and unwary people from being unjustly investigated by an agency that needs additional restraint, not additional power.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Senator Rand Paul Gets It Right on Overcriminalization

    1. KENNETH L TALLANT says:

      Senator Paul I want you to know how much we appreciate you and the work you are doing. If you ever make a bid for the white house I want you to know you would be surprised at the supporters that stand with you. Please keep up the good work. Respectfully: Kenneth L Tallant

    2. anita says:

      Does Congress ever read a bill completely? Of course not–they passed Obama's health care bill without reading it. They didn't even try to object to that so why would they waste their time now.

      • Bobbie says:

        …they better start! It's the job of congress to protect the "common welfare" of people. That's all the left talks about!!! Their weak minds have distorted the meaning of the "common welfare" to sublimate government dependency. We have to demand congress do their job and refuse (by invalidating) government acts contrary to the common welfare of people yet defined in the American Constitution. Onward America!!!!

        Thank you Senator Rand and all of the like minded minorities (meaning they're not the needed, once assumed, majority intelligent thinkers in congress!!!)

    3. mark says:

      my own opinion the goverment should not have the right to pass any[ bill]without the peoples vote and no that’s not 50% of voters it should be all of america voting just like we do for the president .

    4. Stirling says:

      Thanks Rand, we need more people like you.. Hopefully in November we can send you some more comon sense individuals (to congress) to keep governmnet within it's constitutional limits.

    5. cheryl says:

      thanks Rand we need lots more people like you hopefully that is gonna happen soon

    6. matthew says:

      Senator Paul doing battle for us. Thank goodness and all his father's supporters are down on him because of the endorsement of Romney. Rand is a great senator. I hope he will make a POTUS vie.

    7. I am a former commercial fisherman, and my life, health, finances, business, and retirement options have been absolutely decimated and destroyed by the NMFS, and governmental over-regulation of the fishing industry. The government has quite literally stolen the food from my family's mouths !!!.

    8. Many people do not realize yet that all of America's natural resources have already been sold and traded away by the politicians in illegal, unconstitutional, crooked debt negotiation deals. America's debt with China was secured and backed using America's natural resources as collateral, now the U.S. government is steadily taking away the American peoples access to all of these resources. I for one will no longer support, obey, or comply with any laws pertaining to any form of natural resources. They are not the king's, or government's deer, or fish. The natural resources of America belong to the people of America !!!.

    9. The natural resources of America are not the government's, the corporation's, or the U.N.'s. property to dictate out allocations of those resources. Millions of Americans have had theirs eyes opened to the blatent deceipt and corruption of both political parties !!!. Many of us have lost all of our trust, and respect for each branch of the government, from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to every federal, state and local government enforcement agency that falls under their control. Think about what happens in any country when the majority of the people have lost all confidence and respect for the government and the law.

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