Recently, the issue of over-criminalization has become a hot issue among civil libertarians. According to Harvey Silverglate, author of Three Felonies a Day, the average American commits Federal Crimes every day without knowledge and intent. Crimes meant to combat some public ill in one area are then stretched to cover some completely unrelated activities that Congress never intended to cover when the law was written.
In fact, as the attached video mentions, a small fisherman was charged with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Law that was passed to address the corporate financial reporting abuses that came out during the Enron scandal. All of this, for merely throwing some fish back during an inspection.
When the number of laws increase without bounds and the application of existing laws are expanded to cover “crimes” that were clearly never intended to be addressed, all at the whim of a prosecutor, there is no telling how many felonies we all commit by our mere existence.
This quick 60 second video from the Charles Koch Institute explains the issue.
For more information, also consider the following books on the subject:
Hat tip to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation for bringing this issue to the forefront in Georgia.