The Buckeye Institute Calls on U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Citizens from the Overcriminalization of Innocent Acts

Aug 18, 2021

Columbus, OH – On Wednesday, The Buckeye Institute filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States calling on the court to hear Huckabay v. Idaho and recognize that the legal principle of scienter—that a defendant knows that an act or conduct is illegal and acts despite this knowledge—must be considered when protecting the Due Process rights of defendants.

“Across America law-abiding citizens are made felons for violating obscure laws that they did not intend to break. This race to criminalize ordinary behavior and ensnare citizens who had no reason to believe they were committing a crime does not provide justice nor does it make our communities safer,” said Jay R. Carson, senior litigator at The Buckeye Institute. “While we may laugh at the ridiculous criminalization of innocuous activities—such as helping a friend move a moose carcass—that laughter has the ring of gallows humor for Mr. Huckabay who made every attempt to act lawfully and was still charged and convicted of a felony. With this case, the high court has an opportunity to rightly apply the principle of scienter and reverse the trend of criminalizing innocent acts that somehow violate vague and obscure government statutes or regulations.”

Other nationally-recognized groups that joined The Buckeye Institute’s brief are Competitive Enterprise Institute, Clause 40 Foundation, Reason FoundationFaith & Freedom Coalition, and The Rutherford Institute.

This case began when John Huckabay responded to a friend’s call for assistance in moving a moose carcass. In Idaho, the license and permit process for hunting and moving moose is a complex web of regulations that changes depending on where you live and in what “controlled hunt area” the moose is in. Mr. Huckabay, believing his friend had all the proper licenses and permits to hunt moose in that area, and that the moose had been killed in season, agreed to help move the carcass. Unfortunately, his friend was not properly credentialed to hunt for that type of moose in that particular area and Mr. Huckabay was convicted of a felony for “possession of a moose carcass taken out of season/without proper tags.” In his appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court refused to consider Mr. Huckabay’s Due Process argument that scienter—that he should have had to know he was committing a crime to be charged—be applied.

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UPDATE: October 4, 2021, cert was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States.