Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do you commit a federal crime every day?

The intrepid civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is author of a new book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. Here is Encounter Books' description of the work, along with a link to the book's first chapter:

The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, even for the most seemingly innocuous behavior.
The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the integrity of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.

See also these views on the subject of entrapping citizens through vague regulations:
The Overcriminalized Society: Jailing the innocent

The vanishing jury trial

A wholesale transfer of power

1 comment:

Old Rebel said...

If everyone's a criminal, the government must keep a close eye on all.