Committee Reports

Letter expressing concerns regarding the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2015 and the Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015


The Federal Courts Committee (Ira M. Feinberg, Chair) wrote a letter to Congress to express concerns regarding the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2015 and the Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015. The Committee raised two principal concerns about the legislation. First, while some lawmakers have suggested that mens rea reform must accompany any legislation to enact criminal justice reforms, the Committee argues that the issue of mens rea reform can and should be addressed separately.  Second, that the current mens rea reform proposals sweep too broadly and, if enacted, would cause great uncertainty and unintended harm to public health and safety. This is particularly true since the current proposals would have retroactive effect, and create a default mens rea standard that would apparently be applicable to many existing offenses, even though the courts in many instances have given careful consideration to the appropriate level of mens rea for the particular offense. A default mens rea standard applicable to future offenses created by Congress may well be appropriate and would not cause the same problems. The Committee believes that mens rea reform should not be considered without careful study and consideration, and then only in a targeted manner. 


S.2298 (Sen. Hatch) – Mens Rea Reform Act of 2015; a bill to specify the state of mind required for conviction for criminal offenses that lack an expressly identified state of mind, and for other purposes (114th Congress)

H.R. 4002 (Rep. Sensenbrenner) – Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015; to amend title 18, United States Code, to make various improvements in Federal criminal law, and for other purposes (114th Congress)