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Report: Congress makes too many vague laws

By Mark Sherman
Associated Press Writer / May 4, 2010

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WASHINGTON—A conservative think tank and criminal defense lawyers are forming an unusual alliance to try to get Congress to quit writing criminal laws so loosely that they subject innocent people to unjust prosecution.

A new study by the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says it's a basic principle of criminal law that both a guilty act and criminal intent must be proved.

The report says nearly two dozen federal laws enacted in 2005 and 2006 to fight nonviolent crime lack an adequate "guilty mind" provision.

Among the examples, it says the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act of 2005 makes it a crime to include false statements in a leave application. It says the law could be applied to simple mistakes.