House GOP one-ups Obama's SOTU on criminal justice reform

President Barack Obama used his State of the Union message to push a forward-looking agenda, as is the style these days. One element was to reduce sentences on crimes he doesn’t think are all that serious.


The House GOP is going a step further, and interestingly enough, Obama is opposing it. I guess he only wants show reform, not real reform.

Obama final State of the Union

The Republican idea is simple: Let’s make prosecutors demonstrate, for a list of offenses, that the alleged criminal had an intent to break the law. If you can’t prove that, leave it alone. Oddly, Obama is threatening to veto this check on prosecutors:

Some influential Republicans believe that their colleagues won’t agree to ease drug sentences unless it is included in a package that contains a provision dealing with the intent requirement, known as “mens rea,” the Latin phrase for “guilty knowledge” or “guilty mind.”

The catch: The White House is opposed to expanding a requirement to prove mens rea, arguing that it would make it harder to prosecute corporations that commit fraud, taint food, or pollute the environment, because these violators could allege they didn’t intend to break the law.

As usual, Obama’s all about special carve outs, while Republicans want to reduce the size and scope of government.


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