NEW YORK, NY – The problem of “overcriminalization” describes the rapid growth in the number of criminally enforceable rules and regulations. Although this is a national problem, the case of South Carolina is instructive.
A new issue brief from the Manhattan Institute’s James Copland and Rafael Mangual illustrates the need for reforms, such as the repeal of outmoded criminal laws including prohibitions on minors playing pinball and accepting a challenge to a duel.
In a follow-up to the Institute’s January 2016 paper, Overcriminalizing the Palmetto State: A Primer and Possible Reforms for South Carolina, Copland and Mangual note:
In 2015-16, South Carolina lawmakers added 49 new criminal offenses to its already bloated statutory code. While this represents a welcome downtick in the state’s crime creation rate, the need for reform remains urgent.
Nearly two-thirds of the new crimes created in South Carolina’s last legislative session counterintuitively fell outside the state’s criminal code, making legal compliance for citizens and small business owners more difficult than it should be.
In order to make progress, the issue brief makes clear, the Palmetto State should consider more far-reaching repeal efforts on the model of Minnesota’s 2014 “unsession,” which led to the striking of 1,175 crimes from the statute books. Finally, South Carolina lawmakers should also consider adopting a default criminal-intent provision to offer a measure of protection to those who might become entangled in the state’s confusing web of criminally enforceable rules and regulations.