The Excessive Proliferation of Criminal Laws

Government Encroachment on Our Rights, Illustrated
Government Encroachment on Our Rights, Illustrated
Photo Credit: Bloodthirsty Warmonger

We have too many criminal laws. So many, that thousands of innocent people get caught in the Federal web every year. Let me tell you the outrageous story of Rabbi Hershel Gershon of Baltimore, Maryland (I changed his name because he is indeed an innocent person).

Back in1989, Hershel Gershon was in the gold scrap business and sent his spent nitric acid to the same toxic waste disposal company he had used for almost a decade. One problem: the owners of that disposal facility failed to properly renew their annual EPA license that year.

Unfortunately for Gershon, he committed a Federal Crime even though he himself did nothing wrong nor had any intention of committing. Years before, prior to doing business with the disposal firm, he was informed by the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection that the company was a Licensed Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility. He was not aware they failed to renew their license that year.

Nonetheless, he was convicted and given a five year sentence (of which he had to do 85%) and sent to the Morgantown Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia. He spent the days working in the prison library and the nights reading the Torah in a dormitory cell housing 16 other inmates.

Some of my readers may be scratching their heads and wondering, "Shouldn't the feds need to prove intent?" Sadly, no. Many Federal laws do not require criminal intent.

For example, attempting to take artifacts off federal land without a permit is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and the law doesn't care about intent.

Eddie Leroy Anderson of Craigmont, Idaho, a retired logger and a former science teacher learned that the hard way.

Wall Street Journal, 23 July 2011, As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Are Ensnared

n 2009, Mr. Anderson loaned his son some tools to dig for arrowheads near a favorite campground of theirs. Unfortunately, they were on federal land. Authorities "notified me to get a lawyer and a damn good one," Mr. Anderson recalls.

There is no evidence the Andersons intended to break the law, or even knew the law existed, according to court records and interviews. But the law, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, doesn't require criminal intent and makes it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to attempt to take artifacts off federal land without a permit.

Faced with that reality, the two men, who didn't find arrowheads that day, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and got a year's probation and a $1,500 penalty each. "We kind of wonder why it got took to the level that it did," says Mr. Anderson, 68 years old.

They were lucky they didn't end up in prison. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been convicted in the past few decades under federal criminal laws, especially since Federal Prosecutors in many cases do not need to show that the defendant had criminal intent.

Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Unser was prosecuted and convicted because he and a companion wandered into a national wilderness area when they were stranded in a Rocky Mountain high-country blizzard (1).

Click on the photo at the top of the page for suggestions on what needs to be done to repeal the excessive number of bad Federal criminal laws.

Every single American is but a small, unintentional mistake away from a federal criminal indictment.



The Heritage Foundation , 29 July 2011, Bobby Unser vs the Feds

In 1997 three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser was convicted of a federal crime that exposed him to a $5,000 fine and a six month prison sentence. What did Unser do that so angered the federal government?

He got lost in a blizzard. That’s it. How did getting lost in a blizzard become a crime? Watch the video:

YouTube, Indy 500 Winner Bobby Unser vs. the U.S. Government

### End of my article ###

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