AUSTIN – Today the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a report by Center for Effective Justice Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy on requiring ambiguous criminal laws to be interpreted in favor of the defendants subjected to them. The paper, Codifying the Rule of Lenity, asks lawmakers to formally codify of this centuries-old protection.
“The basic principle behind the Rule of Lenity is that when a court questions whether an act is criminal, a ‘tie’ must go to the defendant,” said Reddy. “As Justice Scalia has said, ‘[t]his venerable rule…vindicates the fundamental principle that no citizen should be held accountable for a violation of a statute whose commands are uncertain, or subjected to punishment that is not clearly prescribed.’”
“Ideally, canons of construction – or other legal norms – need not be codified in a state code. In the case of the rule of lenity, though, a revered principle is eroding as overcriminalization is expanding, and codification would likely have a salutary effect because it would require that the rule be applied in all criminal prosecutions – not just prosecutions for traditional crimes.”
To read the full report, visit: http://txpo.li/Rule-of-Lenity
Center for Effective Justice Director Marc Levin recently penned a commentary in the Austin American-Statesman on how the rule of lenity applies in the case against Governor Rick Perry.
Vikrant Reddy is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Marc Levin is the Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.
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