“Report: Americans commit an average of 3 felonies a day”
A report issued by author and attorney Harvey A. Silverglate indicates that the United States now has so many restrictive laws and regulations that Americans commit an average of three felonies a day without knowing it.
Silverglate’s book titled “Three Felonies a Day” takes a critical look at the Justice Dept. and is available for purchase at his website.
The upshot of the book is that the U.S. government has now loaded up the books with so many laws, restrictions, regulations, and mandates, that not only is it impossible for citizens to know them all but it is impossible to live a full day of normal activities without committing at least one or more criminal acts, to the tune of an average of three felonies a day.
This means at least two things, one being that most of these laws are never enforced, and two being that should it decide to enforce them the government could legally place as many citizens as it wanted under arrest and taken to jail pending trial.
Perhaps this is the most ominous and frightening aspect of the growing power of the federal government. We are all felons. And, as we have been told time and again by various government and law enforcement entities, being ignorant of the law is no excuse for breaking it.
[...] the key to understanding the growing lawlessness is the mortal danger posed by the legal system that has loaded up the books with so many laws, that any prosecutor anywhere could conceivably decide to go after any one of us and then conveniently scan the U.S. Code to decide which felony he/she wishes to pin on us.
Law professor Glenn Reynolds wrote a piece for the Columbia Law Review last year, which stated,
Prosecutorial discretion poses an increasing threat to justice. The threat has in fact grown more severe to the point of becoming a due process issue. Two recent events have brought more attention to this problem. One involves the decision not to charge NBC anchor David Gregory with violating gun laws. In Washington D.C., brandishing a thirty-round magazine is illegal and can result in a yearlong sentence. Nonetheless, the prosecutor refused to charge Gregory despite stating that the on-air violation was clear. The other event involves the government’s rather enthusiastic efforts to prosecute Reddit founder Aaron Swartz for downloading academic journal articles from a closed database. Authorities prosecuted Swartz so vigorously that he committed suicide in the face of a potential fifty-year sentence.
Both cases have aroused criticism. In Swartz’s case, a congresswoman has even proposed legislation designed to ensure that violating a website’s terms cannot be prosecuted as a crime. But the problem is much broader. Given the vast web of legislation and regulation that exists today, virtually any American bears the risk of being targeted for prosecution.
Attorney General (and later Supreme Court Justice) Robert Jackson once commented: “If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows he can choose his defendants.” This method results in “[t]he most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” Prosecutors could easily fall prey to the temptation of “picking the man, and then searching the law books . . . to pin some offense on him.” In short, prosecutors’ discretion to charge—or not to charge—individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the large number of laws on the books.
Prosecutors themselves understand just how much discretion they enjoy. As Tim Wu recounted in 2007, a popular game in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was to name a famous person—Mother Teresa, or John Lennon—and decide how he or she could be prosecuted:
It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. The crimes were not usually rape, murder, or other crimes you’d see on Law & Order but rather the incredibly broad yet obscure crimes that populate the U.S. Code like a kind of jurisprudential minefield: Crimes like “false statements” (a felony, up to five years), “obstructing the mails” (five years), or “false pretenses on the high seas” (also five years). The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: “prison time.”
It need not be said that by the time the American government has reached this deplorable state of affairs, the Founders’ Republic is already over. It’s gone. Destroyed.
The next step will by widespread civil disobedience, even violence. When government turns violent in attempting to enforce its lawlessness on unsuspecting citizens, it would be foolish to expect any response in return except for violence.
We are at a real tipping point. And as I’ve learned in my own dealings with certain prosecutors, there’s no one I’d trust less with my liberty than some wounded egoist with prosecutorial powers and a grudge.
In a post the other day recounting a Democrat Pennsylvania Attorney General’s refusal to prosecute Democrat lawmakers for taking bribes I discussed at some length the how the mirage of equality before the law is merely window dressing that covers up what is, in fact, a police state that doesn’t wish to be identified as such, before concluding,
When you have a country in which those elected for the purposes of upholding the law so brazenly and openly refuse to uphold the law when it comes to their own friends, and yet will eagerly use laws or regulations to “nudge” certain behaviors intended to destroy the “bourgeois” middle class and return us to a feudal state, what you have is a tyranny enforced by a police state apparatus working at the behest of an entrenched ruling elite.
I’d like to suggest that we have, in fact, reached that point, and that all that’s left now is for us to sack up, acknowledge it, and force change. This doesn’t mean violence is necessary or even at this point warranted. But it does mean that, when you have a “professional class” of lawmakers and bureaucrats and prosecutors, et al., what they are going to do is spend their time making laws and issuing regulations and finding people to prosecute.
In the Liberty Amendments, one of the proposals Mark Levin makes, taking his cue from Thomas Jefferson, is that a law that has a sweeping social effect must sit alone and unchanged for 30 days before it can be voted on. This gives we, the people, time to read and review the legislation — and avoid the kinds of riders that attach themselves to omnibus bills or unrelated legislation. This in turn would likely decrease the number of new laws that get passed and return some accountability to our lawmakers by shining a light on their dealings.
I’ll add to Levin’s point and suggest that every federal law passed should, by a vote of convention of the states, be sunsetted after a short period to be determined, and that bureaucrats in the various federal Departments not be given protections that make it nearly impossible to rid ourselves of those who keep churning out regulations that the states, again by way of constitutional amendment, can refuse to follow.
At least, those of us who want to.
After that? All bets are off.