At the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives formed a task force last year to focus on overcriminalization, with ten members evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. In Michigan, as part of an effort to effectuate sentencing reform, the state formed a Justice Reinvestment Working Group, consisting of representatives from both chambers of the legislature, governor’s office, and various administrative offices to analyze strategy relating to Michigan’s crime, community corrections, and sentencing policies, with a special focus on improving public safety and reducing spending on corrections.
A similar, temporary task force or working group specifically examining overcriminalization in Michigan could be established for a specified period to conduct hearings on issues such as criminal-intent requirements, criminalization of administrative rules, and the scope and size of criminal law in the state. In addition, the task force could set guiding principles for lawmakers when creating new criminal offenses, with an emphasis on organizing and clarifying criminal laws for state residents. Guidelines for legislative drafters, suggested by a diverse array of policy groups to the congressional task force, include the following questions:
- Should the conduct in question be a crime, or are there adequate civil, administrative, or other alternatives?
- Is a new criminal law absolutely necessary to discourage this conduct?
- If so, what should the criminal-intent requirement be?
- What is the appropriate punishment?