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March 13, 2012

House Brings FOCUS to Lacey Act Reform Effort

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the effort to amend the Lacey Act to remove foreign law violations as a basis for prosecution in the United States and limit punishment for violations under the Act to civil penalties.  Rep. Paul Broun, (R-GA) introduced H.R. 4171, the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures (FOCUS) Act of 2012.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S. 2062, the companion measure in the U.S. Senate last month.

The U.S. Chamber applauds congressional efforts to bring common sense reform to the Lacey Act, and we look forward to helping the FOCUS Act become law.

The underlying goals of the Lacey Act, including protecting endangered species and promoting stewardship of environmental resources, can and should be upheld, and federal laws ought to give prosecutors the necessary criminal enforcement tools to pursue bad actors.  But defects in the Act have led to some of the worst examples of overcriminalization.

Whether the Act is used to secure jail terms against importers of Honduran lobsters because they did not package the product according to foreign law or whether it serves as the basis for repeated raids against the Gibson guitar facility for alleged violations of Indian export laws, the Act is ripe for meaningful reform.

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