Time to Prune the Tree, Part 3: The Need to Reassess the Federal False Statements Laws

False statement laws are now ubiquitous in the U.S. criminal code. The redundancies inherent in today’s false statement laws create the risk that a person can be charged with multiple offenses and be sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment if convicted of them even though he made only one false statement and therefore truly committed only one crime. A related difficulty is the problem of identifying whether there is but one false statement or there are multiple instances of false statements. Congress should repeal redundant false statement laws and, if necessary, consider revising the general False Statements Act. That would eliminate the risk of oversentencing without preventing the Department of Justice from protecting the public. It would also indicate that Congress is taking seriously the task of addressing the problem of overcriminalization.

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