Last Congress, I introduced the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012 - or FOCUS Act. This bill removes each and every reference to "foreign law" within the Lacey Act and substitutes the Lacey Act's criminal penalties with a reasonable civil penalty system. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Risch (R-Idaho) joined as co-sponsors on this legislation. I will soon be introducing a version in the 113th Congress.
The Lacey Act now serves as a high-profile and frightening example of over-criminalization. Victims include David McNab and Abner Schoenwetter, who spent years in federal prison for "violating" invalid Honduran fishing regulations and, most recently, Henry Juszkiewicz, the Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., whose company was raided by armed federal agents this past August.
The Lacey Act is a conservation law that attempts to prohibit trafficking in "illegal" wildlife, fish and plants. Since 1900, when the bill was first signed into law, subsequent amendments (the Lacey Act was amended in 1935, 1969, 1981, 1988, and most recently, in 2008) have produced what today is an extremely broad and vague law that contains harsh criminal penalties.
The law's broad and unspecific delegation of congressional power to foreign governments runs afoul of Article I of the Constitution, which vests all legislative powers in the United States Congress.
Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Right on Crime, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have supported this bill.
Click HERE to watch my testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee about the FOCUS Act.