In 1998, an American Bar Association task force estimated that there were over 3,000 federal criminal offenses scattered throughout the 50 titles of the United States Code. Just six years later, that number is estimated to be over 4,000. If 4,000 seems like a high number consider the fact that there are then as many as 300,000 federal regulations that the federal government could use the criminal process to enforce. 300,000 rules you can face criminal charges for not following. How can anyone be sure they are not breaking the law? They can’t.
Last week, Heritage Foundation legal fellow Brian Walsh appeared on John Stossel’s Fox Business Network show to discuss his new book: One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. Walsh recounts:
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.
Watch the segment above and buy the book here.