Defanging the Lacey Act: The Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012

Under the Lacey Act, it is a federal offense to import fish, wildlife, or plants “in violation of any foreign law.” Such legislation violates one of the fundamental tenets of Anglo–American common law: that “men of common intelligence” must be able to understand what a law means. The recent explosion of federal criminal law has rendered this standard a mere fiction, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the Lacey Act makes it a crime to violate a foreign nation’s law. Then the common law fiction becomes a contemporary fantasy that can lead to miscarriages of justice. Two bills recently introduced in Congress—each one called the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act—promise to defang the Lacey Act and secure a victory for Americans opposed to overcriminalization.

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