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Democratic and Republican representatives present a bill that seeks to simplify the federal criminal code

“People cannot live free when Government buries them under incomprehensible and never-ending criminal laws,” Republican Representative Chip Roy said.

El representante estadounidense Chip Roy (R-TX) camina por el Capitolio de los Estados Unidos en Washington, DC

(Mandel Ngan / AFP)

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Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy joined Maryland Democratic Rep. David Trone and Arizona Republican Andy Biggs to introduce legislation to address a critical concern related to the federal penal code: the precise determination of the amount of existing federal crimes and their reduction.

The bill, titled the "Count the Crimes to Cut Act," would require the attorney general, in collaboration with federal agency leaders, to compile a comprehensive report detailing all federal criminal statutes and regulations that carry criminal penalties.

Additionally, the proposal would require that the following details be provided for each crime: the elements of each crime, the possible penalties for each violation, the number of prosecutions initiated in the last 15 years for each crime, and the standard of intent necessary to prove the guilt of each crime.

“People cannot live free when Government buries them under incomprehensible and never-ending criminal laws. Almost any adult in this country could be indicted for some kind of infraction at any given time, whether or not they were even aware they were in violation. This needs to change; getting a proper inventory is a necessary first step to fixing this problem,” Roy explained.

Increase in federal crimes

According to the press release issued by the Republican representative from Texas, it is estimated that there are between 4,500 and 5,000 criminal laws in the United States, accompanied by up to 300,000 regulations that can result in criminal sanctions.

A report from The Heritage Foundation supports this concern by revealing a growing trend in federal crimes. Between 2000 and 2007, a significant increase of 452 new crimes was observed, averaging approximately 56.5 crimes per year. Additionally, over the past 25 years, Congress has created more than 500 new crimes per decade, and this trend intensifies even more during election years.

“For decades, Americans (...) have suffered from overcriminalization, often of nonviolent but highly penalizing crimes,” Trone said, noting that the legislation would allow crimes to be closely examined and those that “have no real bearing on the safety of our communities.”