The Treating Accused Persons Fairly Act


To protect persons from unjust criminal punishment for alleged violations of vague and unclear offenses by codifying the common-law rule of lenity and safeguarding due process rights.

The Treating Accused Persons Fairly Act

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Title.} This Act may be cited as “The Treating Accused Persons Fairly Act of 2011”

Section 2. {Congressional Purpose.}

The purpose of this Act is to reduce the risk of injustice stemming from State and local criminal offenses and penalties that are vague or unclear.  The [Legislature or General Assembly] intends to protect against such injustice by codifying the long-established rule of lenity and reinforce the principle of fair notice, which mandates that no conduct should be punished criminally by the government without sufficient notice that such conduct is unlawful.

Section 3. {Rules of Construction for Provisions of Law Defining Criminal Offenses or Penalties.} 

(A) Rules of construction for provisions of law defining criminal offenses or penalties.    

(1) Any provision of law defining criminal offenses or penalties, including but not limited to any statute, rule, or sentencing guideline that is:

(a) susceptible of more than one objectively reasonable interpretation in any aspect, including, but not limited to;

(i) the scope or definition of the prohibited conduct;

(ii) the element or elements that must be proved;

(iii) the mens rea that must be proved;  or

(iv) the penalty to be imposed

shall be strictly construed against the government and construed in favor of the accused.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(a)    The term “criminal offense” shall include any portion of a state

statute, rule, or guidance that defines one or more elements of a violation of law that may be punished by a criminal penalty.

(b) The term “penalty” shall include any criminal fine, criminal restitution, criminal forfeiture, term of imprisonment or confinement, probation, debarment, or sentence of death imposed upon a defendant by the authority of the law and the judgment and sentence of a court.

(c)    The terms “person” or “accused” shall include any natural

person and, where relevant, a corporation or an unincorporated association.

(d)   The term “rule” shall have the definition set forth in section

_____ of this title and shall include any interpretive rule, guidance, or other agency publication that may have the effect of altering the scope of state criminal liability of any person or entity, but shall not include any order issued as part of an adjudication under section ____of this title.

Section 4. {Severability clause.}

If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held unconstitutional or otherwise invalid, the remaining provisions of this Act and the application of such provisions to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

Section 5. {Repealer clause.}

Section 6. {Effective date.}


Approved by ALEC Board of Directors on June 7, 2011.