by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Last week, NC SPIN published a piece by JLF’s Becki Gray on overcriminalization. According to Gray:
We have more activities and actions classified as a crime, something worthy of public condemnation, than just about any state…
In addition to their sheer volume, criminal laws are confusing, complicated, duplicative, and hard to follow and find, making it next to impossible to comply. Many have been declared unconstitutional by our courts. Others are impossible to enforce or are no longer enforceable. Many are duplicated in various sources.
For example, we have 17 various crimes of larceny. Why not one, i.e., it is against the law to steal stuff. Others vary across county or city lines.
One thing is obvious, Gray writes:
North Carolina needs criminal law reform.
Gray goes on:
Recodification is legalese for cleaning up our criminal code. We need to evaluate every crime that’s on the books, across every entity, and review, evaluate, and reorganize it all into a unified code. Activities that we agree are worthy of public condemnation should be easy to find, understand, and follow. That may mean getting rid of some, consolidating others, and strengthening those that need it. A periodic review is in order. Changes could address criminal justice questions, such as appropriate sentencing, restitution, and rehabilitation. A unified criminal law system ensures equal justice and opportunity under the law. Recodifying the code is the reform we need to fix overcriminalization.
This process needs to happen across the United States, Gray writes. North Carolina could be the first of many:
Legislators and decisionmakers in other states and even federal government officials have expressed an interest in how we’re moving forward with criminal law reform. Other states have made efforts at reform but have been unsuccessful. North Carolina has an opportunity to, once again, be a model to the rest of the nation in how to do reform right…
Let’s do it. North Carolina is overcriminalized, we need criminal law reform, and recodification is the way to get there.