Are you a criminal? The state says that you are. Harvey A. Silverglate’s Three Felonies A Day says in his book that federal prosecutors invent creative interpretations of statutes and by doing so create new felonies out of thin air. So many felonies that the average person in this country commits three felonies a day.
The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have not only exploded in number, but, along with countless regulatory provisions, have also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how the federal criminal justice system has become dangerously disconnected from common law traditions of due process and fair notice of the law’s expectations, enabling prosecutors to pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior.
The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to”white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the continued functioning and integrity of our constitutional democracy hang in the balance. ~from the publisher’s description
Silverglate tells us that the poor wording of congressional laws allows these prosecutors to establish felonies never intended by Congress to become the law of the land. He tells us 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 and they are of no use in reining in the abuses of the predators called federal prosecutors. These judges permit the prosecution of Americans for crimes that the defendants did not know were crimes and most often could not have known were crimes. Hell, part of the time these crimes did not even exist until some federal prosecutor dreamed 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 and in spite of that it has become commonplace in our modern police state. Silverglate reports in his book that defense attorneys have lost confidence that it is possible to defend a client from a federal prosecution. In the vast majority of cases the defense has become a mere negotiator of a plea bargains to reduces the charges and prison time of the defendant in spite of the fact that many are innocent.
Very often these novel “new laws” can then be used to entrap 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. This is the aspect of the modern system of in-justice that most of us are more familiar with.
The problem is that prosecutors rarely care about innocence or justice. They are the products of law schools that preach winning at all costs and they know that their future prospects of getting appointments to the bench or winning a political race depends on a high conviction rate. To hell with justice because being “tough on crime” is a requisite item on their resume. Besides that, prosecutors operate under cover of immunity.
In most professions people who make serious errors that harm other people, like sending an innocent man to prison for decades, results in their being held accountable for the actions that caused the situation. In America prosecutors who bend and break the law are immune from any punishment. How the hell did that come to be? Who thinks that giving a man immunity for all his actions will lead to him never abusing his position?
I recommend reading Silverglate’s book even though it is a few years old now. The system is still broken and he describes it well.