Everyone’s A Criminal

You probably broke the law today.
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Criminal law has exploded in size and scope. There are more than 300,000 federal criminal laws alone.

“There’s a federal prohibition on walking a dog on a leash longer than six feet on federal property. It is a jailable offense,” says Rafael Mangual of City Journal. “Anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything.”

Like trying to save animals during a hurricane. That got Tammy Hedges in trouble.

She was charged with 12 counts of “misdemeanor practicing or attempting veterinary medicine without a license.”

Her crime? Sheltering animals. Or as she put it: “mak[ing] sure that they were not out there drowning.”

According to the prosecutor, “a passion and love of animals is laudable but does not excuse unnecessarily putting their health at risk.”

“The idea that these people were engaged in the sort of behavior that ought to be met with jail time really does seem to belie reality,” Mangual tells Stossel.

“How did we get here, with so many laws even lawyers can’t count them?” asks Stossel.

“At the federal level, 98% of criminal laws are not passed by elected representatives. They are created entirely by unelected bureaucrats who don’t have to answer to anyone” Mangual responds.

Many of the laws exist because politically connected people don’t like newcomers entering their turf. “At the root of a lot of the overcriminalization problem is … established players who want to use the government to keep them protected from competition” explains Mangual.

This overcriminalization puts everyone at risk of being prosecuted for things that we don’t even know are illegal,” says Stossel.

Mangual agrees: “It’s impossible to know what sort of behavior is criminal. When they get labeled as criminals, that stays with them through their whole life.”