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Overcriminalization: The Past, Present, and Future Expansion of the Criminal Law

Criminal Law Symposium
Overcriminalization: The Past, Present, and Future Expansion of the Criminal Law

SYNOPSIS

This Criminal Law Symposium took place on Friday, April 9, 2010; titled Overcriminalization: The Past, Present, and Future Expansion of the Criminal Law. As a result of the so-called “war on crime” paradigm advanced for the first time during the 1960’s, federal and state governments have increasingly made use of criminal sanctions as a way to regulate our private life, families, schools, workplaces, and residential communities. This has led to what many scholars have called the problem of “overcriminalization”. Examples of this extraordinary expansion of the criminal law abound. Federal law makes it a crime to tear a tag off a mattress. Possessing drugs is an offense regardless of whether the actor intends to distribute the narcotics. Similarly, possession of burglar’s tools is a crime even if the perpetrator never attempts to break into the structure. More recently, many countries have responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by enacting statutes that criminalize mere membership in a criminal or terroristic organization. 

Such widespread use of the criminal law raises many concerns. The prevalent criminalization of possession is troublesome because possession offenses amount to victimless crimes that prohibit conduct way before the actor attempts to engage in harmful behavior. Making it an offense to be a member of a criminal organization is problematic because it comes very close to establishing guilt by association. The purpose of this Symposium was to examine these and other issues raised by the phenomenon of overcriminalization in an attempt to learn how to make a better and more efficient use of the criminal law and how to develop doctrines that limit the use and abuse of the criminal sanction.

Click here for symposium brochure.


BIOGRAPHIES 

LUIS E. CHIESA
Luis Chiesa is a distinguished faculty member of Pace School of Law. As an associate professor of law, Professor Chiesa concentrates on comparative law and criminal law/ legal analysis. Prior to that, he clerked for the Honorable Federico Hernandez Denton, chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Professor Chiesa received his JD from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. He has an LLM Degree from Columbia Law School.
 
FEATURED SPEAKERS
 

PAUL H. ROBINSON
Paul Robinson is one of the world’s leading scholars on criminal law and is the Colin S. Diver Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Paul Robinson served as a federal prosecutor, counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Laws and Procedures, and as one of the original commissioners of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

 

JESÚS-MARÍA SILVA SÁNCHEZ
Jesús-María Silva Sánchez is one of Europe’s foremost criminal law scholars. He holds a chair in criminal law at Barcelona’s Universidad Pompeu Fabra and has published more then twenty books and hundreds of articles in law journals in Spain, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and in most Latin-American countries.

 

DOUGLAS N. HUSAK
Douglas Husak is professor at Rutgers New Brunswick and a noted criminal law theorist and legal philosopher. His work explores the connections between moral philosophy and the substantive criminal law---especially decisions about criminalization and the moral limits of the criminal sanction. This latter interest has led him to critically examine the rationale for drug prohibitions.


CONTRIBUTORS

  • Vera Bergelson
    Professor of Law and Robert E. Knowlton Scholar, Rutgers Law School – Newark
  • Manuel Cancio Meliá
    Professor of Law, Autónoma de Madrid University
  • Marcelo Ferrante
    Professor of Law, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • James Forman
    Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School
  • Carlos Gómez-Jara Díez
    Associate Professor of Law, Autónoma de Madrid University, Madrid, Spain
  • Stuart Green
    Professor of Law and Justice Nathan L. Jacobs Scholar, Rutgers Law School – Newark
  • Douglas Husak
    Professor, Department of Philosophy, Rutgers New Brunswick
  • Fernando Molina Fernández
    Professor of Law and Director of the Public Law Department at Autónoma de Madrid University
  • Stephen Morse
    Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Iñigo Ortiz de Urbina Gimeno
    Visiting Professor of Law, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
  • Paul H. Robinson
    Colin S. Diver Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Jesús-María Silva Sánchez
    Professor of Law, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
  • Ekow Yankah
    Associate Professor, Cardozo School of Law
  • Leo Zaibert
    Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Union College