Meet Mike Chase, the Lawyer Behind @CrimeADay - Reason.com

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  steve-ott  •  3 weeks ago  •  11 comments

By:   Reason. com

Meet Mike Chase, the Lawyer Behind @CrimeADay  - Reason.com
You can get five years in federal prison for selling llama poop, according to Title 7 of the United States

Q: Why should we take your opinion seriously about these crazy laws?

A: I don't know if anybody should take my opinion seriously about this, but I will tell you that by day I'm a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. I'll defend anybody for anything. By night, I spend a lot of time trying to count the number of crimes, because the Department of Justice said that they couldn't do it. They tried to count them all in the 1980s and quit. So I said, 'Look, if I do one federal crime a day, I only need 800 years to finish the job, and then I'll be able to say that I counted them all.' So that's what I've been doing.


S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Todd Krainin| From the October 2019 issue

(Mike Chase)

You can get five years in federal prison for selling llama poop, according to Title 7 of the United States Code, Section 8313(a)(1)(B).

Title 21, Part 139 of the Code of Federal Regulations prohibits the sale of spaghetti noodles that are improperly shaped. The Swine Health Protection Act forbids feeding a pig garbage that hasn't been cooked by a garbage cooker (requiring a garbage-cooking permit, naturally).

Criminal defense attorney Mike Chase, the man behind the popular @CrimeADay Twitter feed, has a new book out titled How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender (Atria Books). It chronicles government power at its most arbitrary and absurd. In late May, Reason's Todd Krainin sat down with Chase to learn the roots of his obsession with stupid laws.

Q: Why should we take your opinion seriously about these crazy laws?

A: I don't know if anybody should take my opinion seriously about this, but I will tell you that by day I'm a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. I'll defend anybody for anything. By night, I spend a lot of time trying to count the number of crimes, because the Department of Justice said that they couldn't do it. They tried to count them all in the 1980s and quit. So I said, 'Look, if I do one federal crime a day, I only need 800 years to finish the job, and then I'll be able to say that I counted them all.' So that's what I've been doing.

Q: This book is a book of humor and not serious legal advice, right?

A: The truth is that if somebody comes to me and says, "Is it illegal to do x?," whatever the blank is filled with, the answer is, "I don't know." I can't sign a piece of paper that says, "Hey, it's totally legal to do any particular thing," because you can't read all the laws.

I haven't gotten through all of them yet, even though I've been doing it for five years. I think people who read the book should know it's a work of humor. Don't do anything in the book. You're probably not going to get charged for selling, you know, runny ketchup. But you could. The specter of criminal liability hangs over all of us all the time.

Q: Are people even charged with these crimes?

A: It depends on which crimes you're talking about. We expect prosecutors to exercise something called "prosecutorial discretion." What that ends up meaning is that they charge mostly gun crimes, drug crimes, immigration crimes, and fraud crimes. That's overwhelmingly their focus. But 1.5 to 2 percent of the federal docket is the administrative crimes and regulatory violations that I write about. That's still thousands of people each year. Thousands of lives. People who have to get a lawyer, go to court, potentially appeal after a conviction, maybe try to go to the Supreme Court to find out if the law they didn't know they were violating is even constitutional. So yeah, people are charged with these silly laws.

Q: Is it like if a federal prosecutor wants to throw the book at you, they will add these charges on?

A: If a federal prosecutor wants to throw the book at you, it's my book that they throw. But yes, there's a coercive element to prosecuting people. We hear talk about obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents. The truth is that if they can't get you on a substantive crime that everybody agrees is morally reprehensible, they can often get you on lying to the feds, because they decide whether you were being truthful or not.

Q: Why did you dedicate this book to the U.S. Congress?

A: Like any great comedian, I have ghostwriters, and Congress is my ghostwriter. I couldn't have done the book without them.

Q: What can be done?

A: Congress can go through and look at the statutes that I cite in the book that give away this blanket criminal enforcement power to the executive branch agencies. Because, remember, the reason that there are 300,000 federal crimes is not because of criminal statutes. There's maybe a couple of thousand federal criminal statutes. But in each of those laws, they give this blanket authority to regulators to make new crimes without Congress doing anything. That has to change.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. For a video version, visit reason.com.


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Steve Ott
1  seeder  Steve Ott    3 weeks ago

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
2  Paula Bartholomew    3 weeks ago

In KS -

It is against the law for a dog to bother a cow.

If you do take your cow to church, it must be properly attired.

 
 
 
Steve Ott
2.1  seeder  Steve Ott  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2    3 weeks ago

I liked the one about inappropriate gestures to a horse? How does the horse know?

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
2.1.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Steve Ott @2.1    3 weeks ago

Some do know.  I once gave mine the finger when he stepped on my foot.  His head went down and he retreated to a corner of his stall, looked back with a total hurt look.

 
 
 
Split Personality
2.1.2  Split Personality  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

Absolutely true, mine could also count.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
2.2  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2    3 weeks ago

It is against the law for a dog to bother a cow.

Wow.... I'd forgotten that one Paula.  That was brought up in our civics class, senior year in Kansas.  A looooonnnngggg time ago!

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
2.2.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.2    3 weeks ago

I heard it in 1971 when I worked in KS one summer or as I called it...my descent into Hell.jrSmiley_9_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Kavika
3  Kavika     3 weeks ago

This is not a federal crime but it is a state crime in Florida.

In the state of Florida, women may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer, as can the salon owner.

I warned my wife, what she told me is not appropriate for a family discussion site.

A good article and each of us probably commits a federal crime on a regular basis.

Time to clean out the books.  

 
 
 
Steve Ott
3.1  seeder  Steve Ott  replied to  Kavika @3    3 weeks ago

A Texas rep, whose name I currently forget, got a law passed that said, "When two trains meet, they both must stop. Neither can move until the the other train moves." He didn't actually expect it to pass. But he did say, "it just proves that no one actually reads the bills before them".

Harvey Silverglate, an attorney, wrote a book. "Three Felonies a Day". The real issue isn't the number of criminal laws passed, but that Congress has said all rules and regulations passed by any of the agencies may be prosecuted as crimes.

 
 
 
Transyferous Rex
3.1.1  Transyferous Rex  replied to  Steve Ott @3.1    3 weeks ago
"it just proves that no one actually reads the bills before them".

That's been a gripe of mine for a long while now. Had a good family friend in the state house. I called him on it one evening. Stayed with us frequently, when session was in. He'd come rolling in late, after spending the evening getting wined and dined, then he'd retire to his room to "read" what was up for vote the following day. 

One night I asked him if he ever read the bills or amendments. (this is around midnight) He first said yes. Then I pressed a bit, and he started backing up. In the end he confessed that he generally just listened to the floor debate. So, I took the chance to ask him what the debate was on a bill up for grabs the following day, and I read it while he told me. Not even close. I had him actually read, and he admitted that what was in the bill was not what was being represented on the floor. The following question came out of my mouth quickly. How many pieces of shit legislation have you helped pass because you take the word of someone covered by the speech and debate clause? Scary. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Kavika @3    2 weeks ago

I once asked a lawyer friend of mine why are these stupid laws still on the books.  He told me it would be cost prohibitive to remove them.

 
 
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