One of the more interesting aspects of FreedomWorks’ justice reform project is studying the over-criminalization. It is an issue that many want to avoid, preferring instead to focus their efforts on other very worthy issues like sentencing and corrections reform. Of course, we support these efforts. With 4,500 to 5,000 federal criminal statutes and as many as 400,000 regulations carrying criminal penalties, over-criminalization is a problem, and it is one that does not get nearly enough attention.
FreedomWorks has discussed over-criminalization before. In September, we published a white paper, The Over-criminalization Epidemic: The Need for a Guilty Mind Requirement in Federal Criminal Law, which highlighted the issue and promoted the concept of default mens rea, or a criminal intent provision that puts the onus on prosecutors to prove that someone who engaged in an unlawful activity knew they were committing a crime.
In 2013, the House Over-criminalization Task Force instructed the Congressional Research Service to provide a complete accounting of all federal crimes. The agency, however, was unable to provide the information because, according to Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, “they lack the manpower and resources to accomplish this task.”
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which FreedomWorks supports, does, in Section 109, touch on the issue. It requires the Attorney General to submit a report to the House and Senate judiciary committees of all federal criminal statutes and federal regulations carrying criminal penalties, as well as the penalties and mens rea, or criminal intent, requirements for the offenses. The legislation also requires the Attorney General make the report available on the Department of Justice website.
Until Congress to passes the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, we will just have to settle for Twitter. @CrimeADay, which, as the name suggests, documents some of the ridiculous laws and regulations in U.S. Code and the Federal Register. Whoever runs the account will have plenty of fodder for a very long time.
Today, @CrimeADay will have tweeted a federal crime every day for a year. By some estimates, it will only take ~800 years to tweet the rest.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) July 17, 2015
Here are some of the crazy and silly laws on the books, according to @CrimeADay.
Do not ever call “turkey ham” “ham turkey,” or something
21 USC §461 & 9 CFR §381.171(d) make it a crime to sell "Turkey Ham" as "Ham Turkey" or with the words "Turkey" and "Ham" in different fonts
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) January 14, 2016
That is not the fish-washing faucet!
16 USC §551 & 36 CFR §261.16(c) make it a crime to wash a fish at a faucet if it's not a fish-washing faucet, in a national forest.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) January 13, 2016
Just leave your pig at home
18 U.S.C. §1857 makes it a federal crime to knowingly let your pig enter a fenced-in area on public land where it might destroy the grass.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) December 20, 2015
18 USC §1865 & 36 CFR §7.96(b)(3) make it a federal crime to harass a golfer in any national park in Washington, DC.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) December 10, 2015
Even the Dread Pirate Roberts?
18 U.S.C. §1657 makes it a federal crime to consult with a known pirate.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) December 7, 2015
Just leave your dog at home
18 U.S.C. §1865 & 36 C.F.R. §2.15(a)(4) make it a federal crime to let your pet make a noise that scares the wildlife in a national park.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) November 22, 2015
40 U.S.C. §8103(b)(4) makes it a federal crime to injure a government-owned lamp.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) November 18, 2015
What fraud was perpetrated on the public to need this law?
21 USC §333 & 21 CFR §102.39 make it a crime to sell onion rings resembling normal onion rings, but made from diced onion, without saying so
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) November 10, 2015
Government takes all the fun out of everything
18 USC §1382 & 32 CFR §636.28(g)(iv) make it a federal crime to ride a moped into Fort Stewart without wearing long trousers. cc @macklemore
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) November 8, 2015
Let’s be honest here, you have to be drunk to skydive
49 U.S.C. §46316(a) & 14 C.F.R. §105.7(a) make it a federal crime to skydive while drunk.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) October 28, 2015
16 USC §707, 50 CFR §§20.21(a) & 20.11(a) make it a federal crime to hunt doves and pigeons with a machine gun or a "stupefying substance."
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) September 20, 2015
Skateboarding is not a crime!
40 U.S.C. §1315(c)(2) & 45 C.F.R. §3.42(e) make it a federal crime to skateboard at the National Institutes of Health.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) July 24, 2015
**Was this actually a thing?
7 USC §8313, 9 CFR §§93.400 & 93.414 make it a crime to take home milk from a quarantined giraffe, or any animal that "chew[s] the cud."
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) July 9, 2015
Because the fact that it is wine does not make it obvious enough
27 USC §§205, 207 & 27 CFR §4.64(a)(8) make it a federal crime to advertise wine in a manner that suggests it has intoxicating qualities.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) June 25, 2015
Try to resist the urge to giggle like 12-year-old
21 USC §§333, 352 & 21 CFR §332.30(b) make it a federal crime to sell anti-flatulent drugs without noting flatulence is "referred to as gas"
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) June 23, 2015
10 U.S.C. §2674(c)(3) & 32 C.F.R. §234.7(c) make it a federal crime to willfully make an unreasonable noise at the Pentagon.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) May 22, 2015
Was there some sort of epidemic that prompted this law?
7 USC §1011(f) & 36 CFR §261.4(b) make it a crime to say something so annoying to someone that it makes them hit you in a national forest.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) May 12, 2015
You are on notice, Mother Nature
15 U.S.C. §§330a & 330d make it a federal crime to attempt to change the weather without telling the Secretary of Commerce.
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) April 4, 2015
Sorry, Walking Dead fans
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27 U.S.C. §207, §205(e) & 27 C.F.R. §4.39(a)(9) make it a federal crime to sell wine with a brand name including the word "zombie."
— A Crime a Day (@CrimeADay) March 25, 2015