• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • How the Feds Criminalized Alternative Energy Entrepreneurship

    Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Over-Criminalization of Conduct/Over-Federalization of Criminal Law. Heritage fellow Brian Walsh wrote at the time:

    We should applaud Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) for holding a bipartisan hearing today to examine how federal law can make a criminal out of anyone, for even the most mundane conduct.

    Federal law in particular now criminalizes entire categories of activities that the average person would never dream would land him in prison. … Consider small-time inventor and entrepreneur Krister Evertson, who will testify at today’s hearing. Krister never had so much as a traffic ticket before he was run off the road near his mother’s home in Wasilla, Alaska, by SWAT-armored federal agents in large black SUVs training automatic weapons on him.

    Evertson, who had been working on clean-energy fuel cells since he was in high school, had no idea what he’d done wrong. It turned out that when he legally sold some sodium (part of his fuel-cell materials) to raise cash, he forgot to put a federally mandated safety sticker on the UPS package he sent to the lawful purchaser. Krister’s lack of a criminal record did nothing to prevent federal agents from ransacking his mother’s home in their search for evidence on this oh-so-dangerous criminal.

    Unfortunately for Krister, and American entrepreneurs everywhere, the story only gets worse from there (hint: the EPA gets involved). You can read Krister’s entire testimony here (pdf).

    Also testifying last week was Kathy Norris. Heritage fellow Andrew Grossman recaps her husband’s ordeal with the feds:

    George Norris, an elderly retiree, had turned his orchid hobby into a part-time business run from the greenhouse in back of his home. He would import orchids from abroad–South Africa, Brazil, Peru–and resell them at plant shows and to local enthusiasts. He never made more than a few thousand dollars a year from his orchid business, but it kept him engaged and provided a little extra money–an especially important thing as his wife, Kathy, neared retirement from her job managing a local mediation clinic.

    Their life would take a turn for the worse on the bright fall morning of October 28, 2003, when federal agents, clad in protective Kevlar and bearing guns, raided his home, seizing his belongings and setting the gears in motion for a federal prosecution and jail time.

    “Overcriminalization” describes the trend in America – and particularly in Congress – to use the criminal law to “solve” every problem, punish every mistake (instead of making proper use of civil penalties), and coerce Americans into conforming their behavior to satisfy social engineering objectives. Criminal law is supposed to be used to redress only that conduct which society thinks deserving of the greatest punishment and moral sanction.

    But as a result of rampant overcriminalization, trivial conduct is now often punished as a crime. Many criminal laws make it possible for the government to convict a person even if he acted without criminal intent (i.e., mens rea). Sentences have skyrocketed, particularly at the federal level.

    CATO’s Tim Lynch also testified at the hearing, and George Mason University Law School assistant professor Ilya Somin adds his thoughts here.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to How the Feds Criminalized Alternative Energy Entrepreneurship

    1. Ozzy6900, CT says:

      Good, hard working Citizens subjected to this garbage while real criminals roam the streets and break into our houses at night! You people think I am kidding when I say we are heading to another Lexington & Concord?

    2. DANVILLE CA says:

      Is it not time to begin impeachment proceedings against Mr. Obama? The amount of evidence cannot be left 8un noticed the way Hitler rose to power by control of the media.

      Would it be fair to say that if he is not removed The United States of America could split into two countries East and West and each will have there own president and Mr. Obama will not have a country.?

    3. Ben says:

      This has been going on for over a hundred years. Sometimes, government even circumvented the legal system and just killed people, like after world war I. It seems that the only way to "kill the beast" is to use force. They sure don't listen to our words.

    4. Pingback: » Financial News Update - 07/29/09 NoisyRoom.net: Where liberty dwells, there is my country…

    5. Thomas, Sackets Harb says:

      Unfortunately, at the age of 60, I now believe that I will see an armed conflict between citizens and government forces, at some time before I die. Who could have forseen our situation even so recently as a year ago? The government continues to grow as rapidly as billions turn into trillions. I also remember the kids being killed at Kent State University. Why is that part of history swept under the carpet?

    6. Pingback: links for 2009-07-29 « Overton’s Arrow

    7. Nick N., New Jersey says:

      What's that sound; can you hear it? It sounds like 1776 all over again. Let's Roll!

    8. Whicket Williams Kin says:

      Pray Pray Harder

    9. Dennis Idaho says:

      Thomas – I agree with you. I am 64 and would not be supprized to see blood in the streets of America before the end of 2010. Anyone that is opposing government control will be criminalized, their gun ownership stripped. Then we will not have any way to resist the tyrant government. We have not been a free people for the last 100 years. I often think of a line from the movie The Patriot "Why should I change one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away" We have more tyrants in our government today than we had when this nation fought for Independence.

    10. Kenneth E Henderson- says:

      We elected these people to represent us and once in office they represent only themselves.The lies just get worse and the check book never closes.I don't feel safe anymore in my own country run by third world thugs!I'll stop now so I don't have to use the back of this paper.

    11. Dora Hester, Hidden says:

      I was working in Berlin when I saw "the wall" being built by East German soldiers, mostly during the night, to go as unnoticed as possible… People were protesting, many lost their lives, however, FEAR paralyzed most into silence!!! Don't let this happen here. Open your eyes!

      We have a "club" in Washington that is deceitful, arrogant and insiduous. They need to be reminded WHO put them in their seats of power (?) and that these same people will show they can remove them by voting them out of office with PINK SLIPS. Our voices need to be heard. Wake up AMERICA!!!

      Wake Up and get involved before it is too late!!!

      Next time you vote, make sure it is people who have business experience and integrity, not just having been a politician!

    12. Jerry from Chicago says:

      These agents must have received their training at the Janet Reno Academy of SFAQL – Shoot first, ask questions later – located in the remains of Waco, Tx.

      This seems to be a rather dramatic apprehension. Was their any explanation of why these agents couldn't have just knocked on this guy's door and said "we'd like to ask you some questions"?

    13. Cyndi, Northern CA. says:

      Like Kenneth, I also don't feel safe in my own country and run by thugs. I'm affraid to walk out my front door or even open it somedays, for fear of who might be on the other side. Pretty soon they will be coming through them for whatever reason they want. And someone else wrote about voting them out, but it won't be possible because they are bought and paid for to remain in their positions and will do so at all costs. As the saying goes, money speaks louder than words.

    14. John, Limon, Colorad says:

      The real criminals are in Congress.

      Just one example: There is reportedly a list three feet long of topics which Congressmen have made illegal over the years for the Agricultural Research Service scientists to research.

      This list I'm sure includes the subjects of trace mineral deficiency in hybridized crops and in the soil, which is responsible for at least half of all disease in Americans, including even those who eat a 'well balanced diet'.

      Congress knows about this food problem, and let's it go on, because somebody got bribed once, because pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the members of the AMA make lots of money as a result.

      This is just one piddling example.

    15. Wayne, Golden, CO says:

      What, no free ACLU representation for Mr. Everston ?

    16. Bill, Tampa FL says:

      Without a doubt we as a society try to solve every problem by making another law, and thus multiplying both crimes and criminals. I find particularly frustrating many of the requirements which can keep a person from disconnecting their home from the electrical grid. There are some interesting interviews with major figures in alternative energy development at http://www.ourblook.com/component/option,com_sect

    17. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      Government bodies have always used "Codes" to maneuver any body or any entity into compliance of their choosing, simply by changing the "Code" Requirement!"

      Example: A small city that has a sewerage effluent of say .005% into a river, and the State or Federal Government wants that City to add a certain treatment process to the City system. The requirement says, .075 maximum, and the city is only, .005. The State or Feds simply change the requirement to .003. This is how the "System" has worked for the past half century.


    18. Whicket Williams Kin says:

      We must eliminate the career politician This will require the greatest grass roots movement in history, as the machine controls the money and the media. YOU must find someone you know and trust, convince them to run, and make sure they replace YOUR career politician. Please help me spread the word, by spreading this message in your own words every way you. can All politics are local. Defeat the machine by keeping it local personal and real. God bless you.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.