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  • John Stossel Highlights Heritage’s Work Combating Overcriminalization

    One of the reasons that John Stossel’s face, voice, and trademark “Give Me a Break” tagline are so familiar to conservatives is that he has mastered the art of illustrating the absurdity of arbitrary, overreaching decisions by bureaucrats, lawmakers, and other government officials.  Tonight, his show on Fox Business focuses on “Attacks on Freedom”, including the (often hidden) dangers that legislators and prosecutors have created through overcriminalization. Overcriminalization endangers average Americans who have no idea that they have become federal criminals by – for example – mixing two types of turpentine, bringing a pet into a government building, or making an honest mistake on certain government forms.  On Realclearpolitics.com yesterday, Stossel described some of the horror stories of overcriminalization, including stories covered in Heritage’s new book, “One Nation Under Arrest.”

    Former U.S. Attorney General and Heritage Distinguished Fellow Edwin Meese addressed overcriminalization in his introduction to “One Nation Under Arrest.”  Meese writes:

    America is in the throes of overcriminalization: We are making and enforcing far too many criminal laws that create traps for the innocent, but unwary, and that threaten to make criminals out of those who are doing their best to be respectable, law-abiding citizens

    Fox Business will air Stossel’s show 8 to 9 times starting tonight at 9:00 p.m. EDT.  The show focuses on the destruction that overcriminalization caused to average Americans Krister Evertson and George and Kathy Norris.

    Krister, an Eagle Scout with no criminal record – not even a single traffic ticket, was initially arrested by four FBI agents wearing black SWAT gear and pointing automatic rifles at him because he didn’t know that obscure federal regulations required him to put a certain sticker on his otherwise lawful UPS package.  After spending 21 months in an Oregon federal prison, Krister today lives by himself in a ramshackle aluminum trailer sitting on the fenced-in grounds of a construction company’s equipment yard.  Because he is on parole, he is not allowed even to move to Alaska – where he was arrested – to live with his 80-year-old mother whom he used to care for.

    George Norris, a 63-year-old retiree with diabetes and heart problems, had no criminal record the day armed agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (?!) ransacked his house looking for evidence that he had imported endangered orchids for his home-based business. Although the feds found no evidence of illegal orchids, Norris spent 17 months in prison – including over 10 weeks in solitary confinement – because a small percentage of his paperwork was inaccurate.

    One of the things Stossel asked me during the interview was whether most prosecutors have good intentions.  The majority of them do.  But even if ninety-nine percent of all prosecutors have spotless intentions, there are thousands of vague, overbroad federal laws that give the other one percent vast powers to ruin the life of almost anyone.  These laws criminalize an unimaginably vast array of conduct, much of it conduct that you or I would never dream has been made criminal.  Worse, most of these laws fail to require the government to prove that you knew that what you did was unlawful or even wrongful.

    This is the trap for the unwary that Ed Meese warns about in his introduction to “One Nation Under Arrest.”  Some Members of Congress are beginning to acknowledge and combat overcriminalization. Americans need to make sure every Member of Congress does so before all that protects you from federal prison time are the laws of statistics and the whims of your local prosecutors.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to John Stossel Highlights Heritage’s Work Combating Overcriminalization

    1. Don Adams, Ruston LA says:

      I am an environmental engineer and biologist. We recently went to Barataria Bay to conduct some testing of microbes that are adapted to consuming the sweet crude that has been leaking from the floor of the Gulf. We were told that the LA DEQ had primacy over the use of microbes to clean up the mess. The DEQ told us that the EPA was the ruler and that they had stated that no bio-remediation methods were to be used or even tested. If this oil is to be cleaned up, it will ultimately have to be done with microbes – mine, someone else, or nature. We are trying to enhance what nature will do only do it faster so everyone can go back to work, etc. It seems that the head ruler and his czars do not want the oil to be cleaned up. Political reasons, maybe. This seems especially so after their guarded comments to the sealing of the well today. I would like to hear from anyone else that has had the same experience. Don

    2. Billie says:

      American feds abusing authority. More harsh on behavior that effects few if that, then terrorists!

      They use EMPATHY on terrorists and felons, then unfairly, unethically punish for petty misdemeanors.

      This isn't infiltration of beliefs of a specific religion, is it?

    3. Pingback: John Stossel Highlights Heritage’s Work Combating Overcriminalization - Heritage.org (blog) | HONEST HOME BASED BUSINESS

    4. Randall Holland, Ari says:

      The more you let the government make the decisions the more decision they will make. Then at a future point you won't have to make any decisions at all.

    5. Robert Moran, Florid says:

      Good Day All,

      The US Justice System is corrupt. It can be manipulated against any US citizen they choose to proscute.

      With total respect, the sole principal of the formation and creation of the United States of America, was not based on “Freedom and Liberty”, it was based on a number of wealthy European citizens such as Samuel Adams, John Adams and John Hancock, objecting and refusing to pay TAXES.

      Whether these TAXES were to be paid to the English Government, or to the Governor of Massachusetts did not matter in the slightest. The citizens of the North Eastern original British Colonies of Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, did not want to pay TAXES.

      As a disguise to their true intent, these revolutionary citizens ( who were against paying taxes to anybody), made up a fictitious claim to attempt to muster the peasants of the original colonies to fight on their behalf, by claiming that the reason for their discontent was one of a revolt against the British King and his Aristocratic Way of Government. For “LIBERTY, FREEDOM”.

      What a joke.

      Well I would like you all to consider the following.

      The system of Government in the United States of America is nothing more than a Government of Elites, an Aristocracy.

      We have a Government that passes laws that are compiled by corrupt attorneys, of which 83% of the members of Congress are attorneys, that further their own direct greedy needs or agenda against the best interest of the citizens of the USA.

      This corrupt group of charlatans in Congress regularly passes laws on the citizens of the United States that do not apply to themselves, as herein detailed.

      1. All members of the US Congress are legally permitted to engage in “ Inside Trading” of stocks or securities, even if this information is privileged and confidential. This outrageous law allows politicians to make decisions on private companies while at the same time being able to profit financially on such decisions. There is not a week goes by when a private citizen is not sentenced to jail for such an offence. Recently several honorable members of the Congress attempted to introduce a bill to overturn this gross injustice. It was defeated 450 votes to 23. The national press gave this story very little coverage.

      2. No member of the US Congress can be convicted of a sex crime while working in Washington D.C. Witness the recent events of the Democratic Congressman Eric Massa of New York , who attempted to sexually harass an employee in Washington D.C. Congressman Massa was never charged with a crime. The only reason that his sordid behavior was exposed was because the Obamaman and his cronies wanted him to step down from Congress, as he was against the Obamaman’s health care bill.

      3. Congressman Charlie Rangel has been found to have numerous offshore bank accounts that he has failed to report to the IRS. He has also admitted that he erroneously submitted false tax returns to the IRS for over ten years. Rangel is the ex Head of the Ways and Means Commission. This committee is responsible for making and implementing tax laws. Rangel openly brags that he will not be prosecuted, because if he does he will start a revolt with his “Black caucus” members and not support Nancy Pelosi.

      4. Recently the US Congress passed the infamous Health Care bill on all US Citizens. The only individuals who are exempt from this gross intrusion on US citizens rights are ALL Members of the US Congress and their families. Once again the US Congress passed a law that all US citizens must abide by, but they are exempt from. What a disgrace.

      5. The Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, admitted to the non payment of taxes at his appointment hearings. Was Tim Geithner prosecuted over this mistake as every average US citizen would be. No. his actions were ignored. Every average US citizen would have been prosected by the US Government for such an offence.

      6. President Obama nominated Tom Dashell, the ex Leader of the Senate, to be the Secretary for Health and Human Resources. At his appointment hearings, it was revealed that Dashell had not incorrectly filed his tax returns for the periods 2005, 2007, 2007, to the amount of $353,552.00. The total amount that he owed in taxes was $140,167.00. Dashell was not charged with any tax offence by the IRS or the Government. The amount that he owed in taxes was paid by a “SUPPORTER”. If this had been an average US citizen he would have been “dragged over the coals” by the IRS.

      7. All ex US Congressmen are paid pension FOR LIFE on 100% of the salary that they were paid while they were in Congress. 100%. In addition thee spouses of all of these Congressmen are also paid a full 100% pension and a Gold Plated Health Plan is also included. What a disgrace.

      The United States Government is operated by an Aristocracy, where the ruling class,( CONGRESS), passes laws on the peasants ( The US citizens ), that they are exempt complying with. Until the population of the United States rises up and forces these whores in the Government to act as a Government “ BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE”, then the system of Government in the United States is no more than what the citizens of the thirteen original colonies revolted against.

      Until we have a Government that passes laws that apply to all of the citizens of the United States and does not exempt from such laws the “Elite law makers”, the US system of Government is a sham. It is false corrupt system organized


    6. Roger Hartley, Calif says:

      The most abusive and blatant over criminalization is sex offenses. It is also the most difficult to address because it is such a "motherhood" issue. For life after "time served" there is no discrimination between someone who brutally raped a child and someone who found out his girlfriend lied about her age. They are both subjected to an ever increasing body of laws and reporting requirements, retroactively applied, that make their lives a living hell, destroying their and their families lives. The laws have the unintended consequence of driving the truly dangerous offenders underground and preventing inadvertant "offenders" from ever becoming productive members of society.

    7. Brent James, Newport says:

      There is a bill currently with the House subcommittee on Crime which will let some people who have been victims of overzealous prosecution regain their goo standing as citizens. It will also help those who may have actually committed a non-violent low-level crime, followed by demonstrated law-abiding behavior, to earn back their lives as well, and rise above the permanent "felon" stigma.

      The bill is HR5492, THe Fresh Start Act of 2010. It was introduced in June 2010 by Congressman Cohen, and has 19 co-sponsors. As of now, it awaits review by the House Subcommittee. Congressman Bobby Scott chairs this committee, and I urge anyone who cares about our justice system to contact Mr. Scott and tell him that we need for this bill to pass during the current session. His phone number is 202-225-8351 in Washington, and it is 804-644-4845 in Richmond , Virginia, 757-380-1000 in Newport News, Virginia.

      Thanks for highlighting this problem in our justice system.

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