U.S. Congressman Paul Broun, M.D. (GA-10) today introduced the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act (FOCUS) Act of 2012, H.R. 4171, and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S. 2062, the companion Senate bill. The FOCUS Act, which has bipartisan support, would amend legislation called the Lacey Act that holds Americans liable for a wide range of foreign laws pertaining to wildlife, fish, and plants. The Lacey Act as it stands also allows U.S. officials to use foreign law to prosecute someone whose activities they find otherwise objectionable.
Broun and Paul's FOCUS Act removes every mention of foreign law from the Lacey Act. It also strikes the provision allowing a federal prison sentence of up to 5 years, and reduces the maximum fine from $500,000 to $200,000.
The most recent example of this overcriminalization was when armed federal agents raided Gibson Guitar Corp. claiming that Gibson had violated the Lacey Act by using wood -- illegal because of law in India -- to build their guitars. The agents seized a half-million dollars in property, shut the factory down, and have yet to even file charges.
Broun said, "Our bill will peel back one of the most intrusive overreaches of the federal government that exists in the Lacey Act. The U.S. government should not be able to apply foreign laws to American citizens or businesses. Moreover, I never want to see an incident like the Gibson Guitar raid happen again. We're facing one of the worst economic downturns in history, and the last thing our job creators need is a looming threat that the federal government can step in and close up their shops at the drop of a hat. I want to thank Sen. Paul for standing with me in introducing the FOCUS Act, and I will continue to work hard to ensure that this bill soon becomes law."
"It is long overdue that the Lacey Act be revised to address its broad overcriminalization," Sen. Paul said. "We have seen the damage this extremely broad and vague law has done to American companies and it is time to change its language to better serve Americans and the American jobs it threatens. I am proud to see Rep. Broun bringing up companion legislation to the FOCUS Act in the House of Representatives."