March 26, 2014

“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.

Between these fixes, term limits, and a judicial fix that requires Justices to adopt constitutional originalism over stare decisis (which is essentially a deference to the genius of their predecessors that they expect their own predecessors will likewise acknowledge), we can find our way back to a constitutional republic.

At least, those of us who want to.

After that?  All bets are off.

(h/t guido)

Posted by Jeff G. @ 12:50pm

Comments (33)

  1. I no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because, as far as I’m concerned, our Republic died when the rule of law was replaced by the rule of men.

    It’s kind of hard to pledge allegiance to something that no longer exists.

  2. I’m still happy to pledge my allegiance to the Republic. I just don’t recognize Washington as part of it.

    And as I’ve said before — I’m desperate for a handful of states to just refuse whatever stupid mandates Washington wants to saddle them with. “We’re not seceding from the Union; we just don’t recognize the authority of the EPA to shut down our electricity-generating facilities, and will resist all attempts to take them offline.”

  3. be sunsetted after a short period to be determined

    I thought of that too. Definitely should be applied to some things, but then it also opens the door to other kinds of mischief, such as undoing good bills out of political malice and whatnot.

    a judicial fix that requires Justices to adopt constitutional originalism over stare decisis


    Also, bills would have to be passed as bundles consisting of a fixed a dollar amount wherein they cram whatever fits within the bundle (wheelin’ and dealin’ as before), but if you want to add more, you’ve got to put it in a new bundle.

    Maybe your Signature Achievement fills up five bundles. Well, all five are voted on separately, so you may not get all of what you want but you will prolly get some.

    Or there is room in a bundle for four bills but there are five on the table, so you cram in the four that can be agreed upon and for #5 it has to be in a separate bundle and a separate vote.

    This would put a limit on how much crap they can jam into one vote: no more unlimited Christmas trees, so that you have to vote for 99 parts dreck to pass the one good part.

    I would also like to stop this business of the states getting bribed by their own money that got passed up the chain to the fed. The fed should go back into its cage, sans 16A, and find another way to raise funds than to sic the IRS on us.

  4. It was once a commonplace understood for all practical intents by everyone that government is made for the purpose of establishing justice, and therefore that the making of law pursuant to government must be above everything else just.

    But how is beating one’s pet dog for his incapacity to read and recite the Koran, say (or a Shakespeare play), a just act?

    Of course it isn’t, and only a fool would say or think otherwise. But how then of a law which no-one — and in particular, none among those who claim to “write” that law! — understands or can even cite to precision be within their capacity to obey? How could anyone obey the thing which they cannot know, or the thing which cannot be foretold?

    Why, as with beating the dog who cannot recite the Koran, that is no just thing at all. Perhaps we might even go so far as to say it doesn’t qualify as a law, and further, that those who would think to make it thus would not qualify as legislators — since by definition law cannot be intentionally unintelligible and yet remain a law.

  5. But how then of a law which no-one — and in particular, none among those who claim to “write” that law! — understands or can even cite to precision be within their capacity to obey?

    Hmmm. I wouldn’t mind a principle to the effect that, if the lawmakers who voted for it didn’t read it first, I don’t have to obey it.

  6. “. . .mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

  7. Huh-huh-huh. You said “duty.”

  8. No, he said “dooty”

  9. duty sounds like work. that doesn’t jive in proggtardia.

  10. With sh*t like that, nr, it’s not a great leap to un-civil disobedience.

  11. Things are beginning to heat up again on that bogus WaPo report from Eilperin-Mufson team against the Koch Industries: John Hinderaker notices that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Waxman have now written a harassing letter to Koch on the basis of the WaPo falsehoods, and wonders, hmmmm, was this a put up job of collusion by the Eilperin-Mufson team in concert with Congressional officials, or perhaps with CfAP as the cut-outs from the start? He aims to find out.

  12. I think we need a nullification amendment. What I envision would allow any law or SC decision to be overturned by votes of half of the state legislatures and allow any regulation imposed by the executive branch to be overturned by the votes of one third of the state legislatures or by majority vote in either house of Congress.

  13. State Sen. Lee has shown himself to be a real American as per the post title.

    BREAKING: Anti-Gun CA Senator Leland Yee Charged With Gun Running

  14. >bogus WaPo report<

    proggtards find hole, keep digging

  15. >I think we need a nullification amendment<

    i'm thinking adding to a balanced budget amendment – " if a balanced budget is not adopted in the time span in this amendment, all laws and regulations promulgated after jan. 01, 1995 are hereby repealed". go after their livelyhood.

  16. More on the Yee story. I fumble fingered his name above.

  17. Geraghty makes a fundamental mistake: he assumes Democrats have rules.

  18. And I’m damn well sick and tired of people who really ought to know better by know pulling that lame appeal to the better angels of their nature schtick. There’s nothing angelic in their nature.

  19. he assumes Democrats have rules.

    Rules for Radicals, which, we have seen, cannot be turned against them because they rely on the decency of those from whom they want to wrest power.

    You can’t shame the shameless. They run around trying to shame US, but if you try to turn it on them they fling their poo.

  20. massholes just grabbed connecticut clowns.

  21. sdferr

    I’m shocked SHOCKED to find out gambling coordination between LameStreamMedia & Dems

    /Captain Louis Renault

  22. @havel page 76 tpotp

    laws concerning human rights, but to all laws – does not mean at all
    that those who do so have succumbed to the illusion that in our
    system the law is anything other than what it is. They are well aware
    of the role it plays. But precisely because they know how desperately
    the system depends on it – on the ‘noble’ version of the law,
    that is – they also know how enormously significant such appeals
    are. Because the system cannot do without the law, because it is
    hopelessly tied down by the necessity of pretending the laws are
    observed, it is compelled to react in some way to such appeals.
    Demanding that the laws be upheld is thus an act of living within the
    truth that threatens the whole mendacious structure at its point of
    maximum mendacity. Over and over again, such appeals make the
    purely ritualistic nature of the law clear to society and to those who
    inhabit its power structures. They draw attention to its real material
    substance and thus, indirectly, compel all those who take refuge
    behind the law to affirm and make credible this agency of excuses,
    this means of communication, this reinforcement of the social
    arteries outside of which their will could not be made to circulate
    through society. They are compelled to do so for the sake of their
    own consciences, for the impression they make on outsiders, to
    maintain themselves in power (as part of the system’s own mechanism
    of self-preservation and its principles of cohesion), or simply
    out of fear that they will be reproached for being ‘clumsy’ in
    handling the ritual. They have no other choice: because they cannot
    discard the rules of their own game, they can only attend more
    carefully to those rules.

  23. A Criminal Organization Masquerading as a Political Party

    I seem to remember an immigrant from Corleone, Sicily saying something about how a man could steal more with a briefcase than he could with a gun….

  24. This is the more interesting item from Ed Driscoll, in my estimation.

    Of course, you have to follow the links.

  25. My personal favorites: “Mopery and Dopery on the High Seas” and “Conspiracy to Lurk with Intent to Gawk”…

  26. american justice is about as amusing as untreatable gonorrhea

    except theoretically it’s treatable

    you just have to appeal all the way to the pervert Roberts court and pray for a goddamn fucking miracle

    pro-tip: you’ll probably need to put a milk jug up at your local dairy queen for to raise money for your legal team

  27. Al Capone, wasn’t it?

    “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word.”

  28. If things get messy I’d rather it be sooner than later. I’d like to be the one making the sacrifice so my kids don’t have to.