Harvey A. Silverglate’s Three Felonies A Day is a book that focuses on how federal prosecutors invent creative interpretations of statutes and by doing so create new felonies out of thin air. The poor wording of congressional law helps these predators establish felonies never intended by Congress become the law of the land. Silvergate tells in his book that federal criminal law is today so vast that each of us unknowingly commits at least three felonies each and every day.
Federal judges are most often former federal prosecutors themselves and permit the prosecution of Americans for crimes that the defendants did not know were crimes. These crimes sometimes did not even exist until some federal prosecutor dreams up the charge and then filed it against some hapless citizen.
The invention of crimes by prosecutors violates every known legal principle in Anglo-American law. Yet, it has become commonplace. Defense attorneys, Silverglate reports, have lost confidence that it is possible to defend a client from a federal prosecution. The defense now becomes mere negotiators of a plea bargains that reduces the charges and prison time of the defendant, even though he is often an innocent man. The innocent go to jail, have their lives ruined, lose their reputation, and lose families. Often these novel “new laws” can then be used to entrap more innocent Americans and send them to prison. If you read Silverglate’s book you can learn how federal prosecutors manage their frame-ups and send scores of innocent citizens to prison for committing no crime at all. Silverglate reports on many cases to evidence his claims and he was personally involved in many of these examples.
In addition to the prosecutors just making up new crimes, we have the specter of all the wrongful convictions by the prosecutors just looking to “win” and justice be damned.
Writes Bill Anderson:
It is my belief that there are no excuses at all — none — for wrongful convictions. The forensic science is there to use, and everyone in the system is well aware of the real pitfalls in eyewitness indentifications. However, the problem is twofold. First, prosecutors rarely care. They are the products of law schools that preach winning at all costs, and since most of them either are elected or have political ambitions, being “tough on crime” is a requisite item on their resume, and being reflective and being thorough to make sure no errors are made simply is not “being tough.”
Second, prosecutors can operate under cover of immunity. In most professions, people who make serious errors of judgment that result in real harm done to others are held accountable for their actions. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are protected by immunity.