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Over-Criminalization and Public OpinionOver the last thirty years, the number of federal criminal laws has increased by one-third. This expansion, combined with the fact that many of these laws are broadly written and lack traditional criminal mens rea requirements, has given rise to a debate about "over-criminalization." The federal government's raids of Gibson Guitar factories intensified the debate, drew national attention to the issue, and prompted calls for reform. Critics of these developments argue that they are inconsistent with federalism principles, undermine individual liberty, and threaten our nation’s prosperity by providing another major way for the federal government to regulate the private sector. Skeptics dispute various aspects of these criticisms and argue that much of modern federal criminal law provides essential tools for maintaining order, protecting consumers, and reining in fraud. Has over-criminalization had an impact on our economy? What reforms could Congress consider? How does the public perceive these issues and proposals for reform? On this previously recorded conference, the experts explore these questions and share the results of a nationwide public opinion survey.


  • Mr. Whit Ayres, North Star Opinion Research
  • Hon. George J. Terwilliger III, White & Case LLP
  • Moderator: Mr. Dean Reuter, Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society

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