How to Become a Federal Criminal

Mike Chase, author of the excellent twitter feed @CrimeADay, has now written the illustrated handbook, How to Become a Federal Criminal. In truth, a handbook wasn’t necessary because it is very easy to become a federal criminal.

You may know that you are required to report if you are traveling to or from the United States with $10,000 or more in cash. Don’t hop over the Canadian border to buy a used car, for example, or the Feds may confiscate your cash (millions of dollars are confiscated every year). DiImage result for how to become a federal criminal chased you also know that you can’t leave the United States with more than $5 in nickels??? That’s a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. How about carrying a metal detector in a national park–up to six months in prison. And God forbid you should use your metal detector and find something more than 100 years old, that can put you away for up to a year. Also illegal in a national park? Making unreasonable gestures to a passing horse.

The expansion of Federal criminal law into every nook and cranny of life can be amusing but there is a darker side.

The feds also have unbelievably powerful tools at their disposal. They can subpoena your bank records, listen to your phone calls, indict you in a secret proceeding called a grand jury, an, if they think you lied to them, they can charge you for that alone. Then, if you can get a jury to find you guilty on just one charge, the judges is allowed to sentence you up to the statutory maximum based on things you were never charged with, or even things a jury acquitted you of, so long as the judge decides you probably did them. (italics added).

Moreover, when anyone can be charged with a crime, the application of criminal law becomes discretionary and that discretion may be used to suppress the free exercise of other rights. Indeed, the recent Supreme Court case, Nieves v. Bartlett, makes it easier for the police to arrest people even if the reason for the arrest is retaliation for lawful behavior.

Slate: The First Amendment makes it unconstitutional for government officials to retaliate against you because they dislike your speech. At the same time, federal law gives you the right to sue state officials for compensation if they violate constitutional rights such as your right to free speech. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court invented a rule that will often allow police officers to arrest people in retaliation for disfavored speech without liability.

….Because local laws are full of minor infractions, like “loitering,” that are frequently violated without incident, police will often have a pretext to arrest people engaged in speech the officers don’t like. By immunizing such abuse, Nieves may have devastating effects on demonstrators, press photographers, and anyone who wants to exercise their speech rights in public, like the right to film the police or verbally challenge officer misconduct. The power to arrest is a potent tool for suppressing speech because even if charges are later dropped, arrestees must undergo the ordeal—and dangers—of being booked and jailed, and they may have to disclose the arrest on future job and housing applications, among other ramifications.

Comments

You start by complaining about federal crimes then segue into complaints about local police enforcing laws on public order offenses (which is something a responsible police force does).

Actually, you're problem he is that legislative process is hopelessly unwieldy, laws are made by people who are innumerate and cannot assemble sensible sentencing rules, and legislators are negligent and only pass legislation to engage in grandstanding, sluice candy to their clientele, or abuse social enemies. The political culture stinks and the quality of our political class stinks. Of course, libertarians have no solution for that.

Of course they do- reduce the power of the political class

99.9% of the time these laws are not enforced. This allows the prosecutor to legally punish/persecute someone they disagree with or dislike and do it perfectly legally. What we should do is force prosecutors to support all laws equally and prosecute all who break any laws. Only then will stupid and inappropriate laws be removed from the books.

This is where grass-roots campaigns come in handy. You have virtually no say in federal law, but an active citizen can change local laws, sometimes quite dramatically. Going to Town Council meetings or starting petitions for referenda on laws not cited in court cases in, say, 20 years would be entirely possible at a local (municipal or county) level).

Of course they do- reduce the power of the political class

Yeah, that'll do wonders to fix the penal code. Do you people have any ideas that aren't prefabricated?

" Do you people have any ideas that aren't prefabricated?"

Do you?
I bet not.

'How to Become a Federal Criminal'

Commit a federal crime.

'The expansion of Federal criminal law'

Not really sure how to make this plain, but all of your examples detail federal activities - whether that involves the nation's borders, minting and coinage, or what happens on federal property.

And as hard as this might be to imagine, if you have a fender bender on any Mason campus and it involves any state vehicle, it is not the campus or Fairfax County police that respond in terms of legal paperwork, but the Virginia State police. Jurisdiction s one of those concepts embodied in the Constitution, and it is not always straightforward in application. And yes, this may mean that the person driving a state owned vehicle for Buildings and Grounds will have to hang around an hour or two before a state trooper shows up - as will the person that caused the accident.

The truth leaking out?

"And then after I was in the accident that totally wasn't my fault, I had to wait around for like two hours with everybody going by staring at me, and then they had the nerve to fire me! It was so embarrassing the only logical solution was to move to Duisburg."

Nope - this is what anyone who used a pool/state vehicle was told, that any accident anywhere on the campus meant it had to be reported to the state police, even if any emergency response was handled by campus police/the fire department, The example of someone at Buildings and Grounds was not me, it was merely what that person said, in a laughing sort of way - after all, getting to hang around while on the clock is not all that hard. The other person who had to wait was not so happy.

It is fascinating to see just how many commenters seem to have a desperate need to believe that the only reason to leave GMU is getting fired.

@C_P - why are you not a Nazi? Why are we wasting time with you? C'mon man! Raise your game.

You have missed the point

The point of jurisdiction? Of course only federal law enforcement has jurisdiction on federal property. And if the point is about federal crime, then as already pointed out by the very first commenter that Prof. Tabarrok has shifted from federal to local, without apparently noticing that shift.

The nickels sorts of things are odd and obviously unenforced. Laws to stop people from digging up in and around fragile goe/ecosystems (Yellowstone) or looting historical sites (important battlefields, presidential birthplaces, etc.) seem quite valuable.

Penal codes contain relict provisions. If legislatures were responsible, they'd be periodically reviewed and barnacles scraped off. Never happens, because our politicians stink and our judges aren't much better.

We're likely past the point of no return.

Our forefathers ratified (consented to be governed - with huge limitations) the US Constitution. All powers not specifically granted in the Constitution are reserved to the states and to the People.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it give the Federal government power to do 90% of the crazy stuff it does.

You're a sucker if you think you live in a free country.

The Constitition is a compromise document and was left deliberately vague in many places. Neither the powers of the federal government nor the reserved powers owers of thex states nor the reserved rights of the people are given categorical definition in any sort of list of particulars.
It's something the Founders left subsequent generations to figure out on their own.

>The nickels sorts of things are odd and obviously unenforced.

Until they change their minds. e.g., the sudden reemergence of the 'obviously unenforced' Logan Act.

'the sudden reemergence of the 'obviously unenforced' Logan Act'

Yes, but one has to make allowances for President Trump - 'President Trump said Thursday that former Secretary of State John Kerry should be prosecuted under the Logan Act for speaking with Iranian officials and criticizing Trump's policies in Iran.

Trump told reporters at the White House that he would not rule out the possibility of military action in Iran amid escalating tensions before laying into Kerry for his involvement.
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"What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me," Trump said. "John Kerry speaks to them a lot, and John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act, and frankly he should be prosecuted on that."' https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/442934-trump-says-john-kerry-should-be-prosecuted-under-logan-act

Ironic you bring up Trump using it, since the first time it had been brought up was against Trump associates...

The nickels - reverse seigniorage? And you thought I never learned anything from this site!

Stephen Harrigan has an old essay on Isla del Padre in which he mentions the beachcombers who (covertly) trawl the dunes of the national park for coins and other objects from the 1554 Spanish shipwrecks, among others. One guy made the fairly reasonable point that after you ascertain what sorts of things are going to be there, nobody's going to learn anything more from the umpteenth example, so why not let people have a bit of treasure-hunting fun? "The archeologists don't have any use for these coins. They're not going to tell them anything they don't know."

Relics in a desert are a totally different thing, though; people who disturb/loot those should be treated to frontier justice.

Frontier Justice would actually mean no justice, as to relicts in the desert, I understand your point, but I had a TA who once tried to report a farm kid for picking up an obsidian flake, not a flake tool but a <5mm secondary flake, on BLM land miles that was heavily trampled by cattle.

the application of criminal law becomes discretionary

The very mark of a banana republic.

Or the very mark of a civilized society - take your pick. Laws are always enforced in a context.

"Civilized society?" What are you talking about?

Politicized laws in banana republics and totalitarian societies are enforced in context. E.G., It was different when Hillary, Holder, Lynch, McCabe, Obama, et al did it.

Predictability of their enforcement doesn't matter.

Interessant, aber fake.

And it is not about predictability, it is about discretion. It may be illegal to have a child splash in a public fountain, but that does not mean that the child needs to be ticketed when walking in the fountain on a 110°F day.

Und bitte, mindestens ein wikipedia Link.

No you're the fake. Untermensch!

'the judge is allowed to sentence you ... based on things you were never charged with, or even things a jury acquitted you of'

Judicial despotism.

He's pulling your leg. There are actually sentencing guildelines which limit judicial discretion.

The thing is, we have a federal commission to devise the guidelines because Congress is too stupid and refractory to write them into law.

He is definitely not pulling your leg. Federal judges can and do sentence based on conduct for which a defendant has been acquitted. Imagine a defendant who was charged with three separate counts, and was acquitted of two counts and convicted of one. Let’s say the count on which he was convicted carries a penalty of 0-10 years. In deciding where within that range to sentence the defendant for that count, the judge may consider the conduct underlying the other counts — the counts for which the defendant was acquitted. Also, after U.S. v Booker (2005), the Guidelines are no longer mandatory; courts need not follow them. Finally, the Guidelines are, in the main, quite harsh, and mostly do not function as a protection for defendants.

I refer you to Article 70 in the Penal Law of New York. Very rococo instructions with a great deal of backing and filling. However, the rules offer very extensive discretion. You can sentence concurrently or consecutively, you can substitute determinate sentencing for indeterminate sentencing. You can often substitute probation for incarceration. A judge has an extensive array of choices and he can pick a scheme for any reason whatsoever. The classification of a crime in the statute is more suggestive than prescriptive. That's the reality in some states. You want some other reality, it requires less discretion. However, your har-de-har public interest bar despises the prescriptions that are already present in the law, because they tend to increase the length of time served and these shysters want no one to be punished.

Once you read the whole law, it's less surprising (https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/36/2.16):

"Obstructing a trail, or making an unreasonable noise or gesture, considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct, and other factors that would govern the conduct of a reasonably prudent person, while horses or pack animals are passing. "

True, the text of the law is not clear to people that has no experience with horses or mules. Horses are preys, they don't fight back predators, their only option is to outrun the menace. Frightening half-ton mammals, specially a herd, is not so different from shouting fire on a crowded theater.

Certainly, there are stupid, baseless and authoritarian laws, but this is not one of those.

The face value of a nickle is less than the value of the metal when melted down. That explains the export restriction, though $5 seems like a comically low threshold. A change to zinc is reasonable, but then coin operated vending machines would not accept them.

The nickel coin is headed for the same obsolescence as the penny. Vending machines don't accept pennies; why should they accept nickels?

A nickel is larger and heavier than a dime, yet worth only half as much. And the day of the nickel candy bar is now far in the past.

And so, too, the utility of United States' coins. Is it not long past time to re-calibrate the $USD into New Dollars, such that ten old dollars shall be worth one new dollar?

(Which would return the $USD to approx. its value in 1950.)

>Vending machines don't accept pennies; why should they accept nickels?

That isn't really the right question. There exists (or at least existed) many million vending machines that accept nickles that would not accept a zinc nickle. So the treasury made a reasonable choice to keep using nickle (for now) and rather to prohibit the export of nickles. One expects this decision will change one day.

At the time that pennies were changed to zinc, there were very, very few vending machines that accepted pennies so there was not much disruption, but there was some, for example coin counting machines used by banks.

I understand wanting to revalue the dollar to preserve the traditional cents/dollar format, but if you look at countries like Japan where one yen is worth roughly one cent it's not really a problem. I'd say keep going as you have been, then in 20 years time when cash may be in limited use it might be easy to revalue if you want.

Here in Australia I would go cashless if the banks would stop hitting me with fees for cashless transactions. Perhaps the reason why our mint doesn't free cashless payment may be because they make money producing coins and notes for other countries and they don't want to do themselves out of a job by demonstrating that stuff isn't necessary.

When I saw the $5 in nickels export prohibition, I thought it was something weird from the 1930's.

Although the law looks to go back to at least 1967, it has been on-again and off-again, and specifically re-instated in April 2007:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2007/04/16/E7-7088/prohibition-on-the-exportation-melting-or-treatment-of-5-cent-and-one-cent-coins

"he Secretary of the Treasury has determined that, to protect the coinage of the United States, it is necessary to generally prohibit the exportation, melting, or treatment of 5-cent and one-cent coins minted and issued by the United States. The Secretary has made this determination because the values of the metal contents of 5-cent and one-cent coins are in excess of their respective face values, raising the likelihood that these coins will be the subject of recycling and speculation."

"The aggregate face-value limit selected for the interim rule was the same face-value limit used when the Secretary invoked the standby authority of 31 U.S.C. 5111(d) for the periods Start Printed Page 18882 1967-1969 and 1974-1978. The United States Mint recognizes that some 30 years have passed since this authority was last invoked and, based on the consumer price index, the $5 limit in the previous regulations would be equivalent to about $20 today. However, the face values of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins obviously have not changed over this time period and there is no evidence to suggest that an average individual carries any more 5-cent or one-cent coins in his or her pocket change today, than in 1974 or 1967. Accordingly, the United States Mint has kept the aggregate face-value limit for the exception provided for in the current regulation at section 82.2(a)(2) at $5."

There’s a legitimate conversation to be had about federal overreach and law enforcement overreach more generally, but many of the cases presented are just regular crimes committed in areas where the feds have jurisdiction such as national parks, military bases, federal lands, or anything involving customs and the border. Those are technically federal crimes but if you say “federal crime” to a normal person they’ll get the wrong idea. To use an example just from the cover of the book, yes it’s a crime to pour cement into a toilet in a national park. Why would’t it be? And it’s a federal crime. Duh. Is the punishment much worse than if you had done it in a state park or your town hall or your neighbor’s house?

Is the punishment much worse than if you had done it in a state park or your town hall or your neighbor’s house?

The blawger Tom McKenna, who is a prosecutor in Richmond in his mundane life, has said he's puzzled by the federal criminal code because crimes quite similar to those you find in the Virginia statutes carry much harsher penalties.

That’s very interesting.

Banana Republic? Try Pyongyang-on-the-Potomac.
Albany, NY? Moscow-near-the-Mohawk.
NYC? Havana-on-the-Hudson.

Kind of ruined by the National Park stuff. Do you really want random treasure hunters digging up Gettysburg?

(The Dectectorists, esp season one, was a great low key investigation into this topic.)

No, but you don’t need a prison sentence to deter them.

But one assumes that the Park Police can still arrest them, since the only people with arrest powers on federal land are employed by the federal government.

You're missing a fine and obvious point, criminalizing the possession of a metal detector is similar as the ridiculed Texas law criminalizing the possession of a wire cutter.

https://www.dailytexanonline.com/2012/02/20/strange-state-laws-are-obsolete-humorous

"For example, it is illegal to carry wire cutters in your pocket in Austin. According to government professor David Prindle, this law dates back to when there was a controversy between landowners who preferred open ranges and those who wanted to keep their land closed off with barbed wire. Some in favor of open ranges went around cutting the barbed wire. It was difficult to determine who the criminal was, so by creating a law prohibiting wire cutters from being carried, this discretion was easily avoided."

"Do you really want random treasure hunters digging up Gettysburg?"

Why not? Rusting bullets and belt buckles in a wood are of no historical value.

Its harmless fun.

If this short highlighting is representative of the possible ways that America is a capricious or tyrannical police state, then the country has very little problem with such things.

The cause is simple, every one of us do it.

We say 'There out to be a law'. for all the inconveniences of life. It is impossible to stop, we screw ourselves.

Do we screw ourselves, in these examples?

1) Regulating auto imports prevents free riders and ensures that we equally pay sales tax. We are in it together, we pay together, at a democratically determined rate. Sales taxes are often direct ballot issues!

2) Coins can be a good investment for government (and citizens) even when they cost more than face value to produce. Even when their scrap value is higher than face value. If they last long enough they still have a positive ROI. A "cheap coin" might wear out sooner and have a higher total cost, re-manufacturing, over 10 or 20 years. So again, you prevent free riding, mass export of those higher cost coins for scrap value.

3. Metal detectorists on public land are again free riders. This time raiding our collectively owned property (and history!) for personal profit (theft). Some grounds, like Gettysburg, should be fully closed, but even random desert deserves a dectectorist license, and a sharing agreement with the treasure hunter.

I would remain anonymous if I were advocating laws wioth free rider issues.

Buying a car in Canada incurs Canadian government costs, not Us government costs.
Selling scrap metal is basic freedom.
Metal find great stuff, take them wherever you go and ignore the silly laws from anonymous people.

But the general rule is that if you have a free rider problem, you are likely doing some fairly stupid central planning, so yes, remain anonomyous..

I don't think that was a terribly strong answer.

The entire reason for government is collective "good." Free riders disrupt that.

Thus you seem to be saying that, to prevent free riding, we shouldn't have any collective goods in the first place. "Freedom!"

If central planning works then why the 22 trillion in debt, and the 600 billion a year in interest payments? All that expense because some anonymous crowd wants to do central planning? To hell with that, better off to shut the federal government down for good.

My advice: Vote for a shutdown and break all the federal rules you want until central planners get the message. And you can quote me on that.

That's one of the most extreme slippery slope arguments I've ever seen. We've gone from "don't scrap the coinage" to "some anonymous crowd wants to do central planning."

Back to social media reinforcing the wrong things, including freewheeling paranoia.

It's a tragedy of the commons issue, not a free-rider problem.

Terminology: it matters!

Maybe. When there is no rule against importing cars, scrapping nickels, or detecting at Gettysburg, that might be a commons issue. But when there is a general respect for the rules, and defectors?

You used the term free rider in regards to people using metal detectors on public lands, ie, a commons. You were incorrect to do so. kthxbye

I can see your argument, but I think it matters that these are "national parks" and not just public lands, and that they had "don't take stuff" rules in place before anyone thought to bring a metal detector.

You're entitled to be wrong.

Wrong about what? Do you have a date in mind when some piece of land was both a National Park and "a commons?" I say it never happened, and that the process of creating a park always included rules for its protection.

One example I found was for this 1906 declaration for the Petrified Forest:

"Warning is hereby expressly given to all unauthorized persons net to appropriate, excavate, injure or destroy any of the mineralized forest remains hereby declared to he a National monument or to locate or settle upon any of the lands reserved and made a part of said monument by this proclamation."

Signed by THEODORE ROOSEVELT (pdf) no less.

For what it's worth, I thought about this a little bit more and I think a national park is more like "a preserve" than a commons. Kind of opposite.

And cheaters, whatever we call them, are trying to break the preserve.

>if they think you lied to them,

This part is even worse than the quote implies. A lie can be implied from factual incorrectness.

Meanwhile: the Roman Republic, once constituted (509 BCE), breezed through its Patrician Period (509-367) only to have to reconfigure the Republic on the far side of the destabilizing Conflict of the Orders (367-287). Once those disputes were resolved with minor adjustments, the Republic endured almost another two centuries until civil disputes led to so much disruption the Republic came to be sacrificed for the sake of stablishing the Empire.

With the US Constitution now over 230 years old, the plain need for at least a Constitutional Convention has become clear, but in a period hot with partisan disputes--which means the subject is being broached by no one presently or prominently.

--so: when? The US Constitution of March 1789 with all its executive, legislative, jurisprudential, and bureaucratic accretions will serve the American Republic for how much longer? Ten years? Twenty years? All the way to 2076 or 2089?

Predictions or probabilities, anyone?

I don't believe a modern Constitutional Convention would improve the current Constitution. Furthermore, we have a process in place to improve it. The Constitutional Amendment process. There are current 27 amendments. So the current system works.

Most of the time people complaining that the current system doesn't work are mostly upset because they aren't getting their way and they want a process that bypasses opposition.

"The US Constitution...will serve the American Republic for how much longer? Ten years? Twenty years? All the way to 2076 or 2089?
Predictions or probabilities, anyone?"

Since you asked, I can tell you with 100% certainty, right up to December 31st, 2044.

Easy solution to the Nieves v. Bartlett case: States (Alaska in this case) can expand rights by either passing a law or amending their state Constitution. States do not have to limit their citizens' free speech rights to coincide with the feds. They can be more expansive.

@Edward Burke: " the plain need for at least a Constitutional Convention has become clear"

No, it's clear the Feds don't obey the current Constitution.
So what's the point of amending our Constitution?
Ink on paper does not restrain the government.
Power Corrupts.

No one knows how many laws now exist in America -- but best estimate is almost half-a-million.
And note that government "regulations" vastly exceed the number of "laws" in normal legal codes -- but regulations and laws are identical types of government commands... from the citizens' perspective.

I agree that we have strayed far from strict Constitutional understandings of even our Federal government.

Will state positions henceforth hew towards Constitutional reform or towards a new round of opportunistic secessions? or will some Federal consensus emerge for abandoning the Republic for the appeal of a vast new global American Empire?

I am no anarchist and hold no monarchist sympathies. Do we defer democracy altogether to surrender it to corrupt and corrupting technocrats? --or just let the Republic slide into oblivion so we can enjoy the perks of neo-Imperial lifestyles?

At least for now I continue to favor substantive Constitutional reform, but I further suppose myself to hold a minority perspective.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/711

I raise your Smokey the Bear logo impersonation is a federal crime with the Olympic (TM) statute: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/36/220506 ("words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words) and failure to comply with a judicial order to remove an infringing marks can result in imprisonment.

Ah yes. Constitutional reform. What could go wrong? Us vs. Them. I shake my head when people point to some abstract "them" (technocrats) as being more corrupt than "us". If you really believe the propensity for corruption isn't intrinsic in human nature, then you must not be paying attention.

It is hardly the case that our corrupt and corrupting technocrats are "more corrupt" than "the rest of us": it is the case that our corrupt and corrupting technocrats have been permitted to leverage their privileged status for relative political (and financial) expediency, the US Constitution be damned.

Why continue to honor or reward our technocrats' leveraged and engineered positions of conspicuous corruption?

I've never seen a background check form that asked about arrests. Precisely because arrests can be total BS (and there's usually no way to verify the response) most such forms ask about convictions. And some also add nolo contendere pleas.

This book that AlexT reviews is very true. It's one reason, as Conrad Black wrote in his book "A Matter of Principle", that federal courts are so empty of actual trials: everybody plea bargains with the federal prosecutor, who has complete discretion as to how many of the 100s of federal crimes they will prosecute you with, so to avoid a dreaded jury trial (unless you are a minority, and really have committed a serious crime and want to take a chance you might be acquitted). A tragedy, that's one reason lots of people lie low and don't take initiative anymore.

Imagine for example if 1% me were to be 'tried' by a jury composed of the readers of this blog? Half of you if not more would convict me out of jealousy. Same for Black, who had an upper crust British air about him (and a couple of hundred million net worth, much more than me).

one more reason to dissolve the union. more Denmarks and Switzerlands, less unaccountable governance from afar. smaller countries out perform the USAs, Brazils, Chinas, and Indias of the world at every turn.

But you risk Balkanization. Switzerland is a parasite on the world's GDP that depends on tax evasion from the big countries to make money. With Balkanization you'd have more disastrous results like the recent Commonwealth of Virginia decision to outlaw the mining of uranium.

Bonus trivia: reading the fictional financial thriller "The Billion Dollar Sure Thing" by Paul E. Erdman, who was convicted in real life of a financial crime.

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.”

Atlas shrugged

And this never happens in foreign countries like Cuba.... So help me God!

Pretty sure that is a gross mischaracterization of Nieves v. Bartlett. The ruling was something more like that an arrest cannot be considered retaliation if the officer had probable cause. I know its more complicated than that but I think that is much closer to getting at the actual issue they ruled on.

Whenever I hear these types of comments, I yearn to hear the concrete practical alternative. So far, practical proposals have been few and far between, or not at all, or limited to "read the Constitution" or "read the Bible" or some version of NIMBY. And wouldn't work before and (if I may speculate) probably won't "work" in 2019.

A big country with lots of diversity and many rights and freedoms, is inevitably going to have much friction and many disputes, requiring laws which will never be able to cover every possibility (given how highly motivated some players will be to game the rules).
At least that's what Teddy Roosevelt thought. Maybe Alex has a better idea. "We'd all love to hear the plan", to quote John Lennon.

Love it or leave it, as they used to say in the 1960's.

"Whenever I hear these types of comments, I yearn to hear the concrete practical alternative."

The issue is, everyone wants to focus on federal policy. There are enough local laws--county, township, and city--that are ridiculous, outdated, or simply not enforced with any sort of regularity that we should be up in arms about those as well. (To give one example: In an Ohio city there is a limit to the number of females that can live in one building without a male present. Guess how often THAT is enforced!)

In terms of practical alternatives, the answer is pretty simple: Push your local legal entity to review its laws and get rid of those that are no longer relevant or which have not been enforced. At the local level a small group of people can generate enough political capital to get such a thing accomplished.

Once that doesn't explode in a Mad Max-style hellscape, other cities, townships, and counties will start to take notice. From there, states will start to. Then the feds will.

Alternatively, I like Idaho's idea of needing to vote every year to re-establish the laws, but with a twist: Each law must be read aloud, in its entirety, and voted on individual. All members of the voting body (council, congress, whatever you want to call it) are required by law to attend or forfeit their membership, and pay for their term doesn't start until AFTER voting is complete. Let 'em sit through three months or so of nothing but reading laws. But that's just me being sadistic. The first option--grass-roots progress--is an infinitely more practical one.

The policeman of the world is pragmatist,who often play with laws to attain their own benefits and goals.

Excellent proposals, to be sure, but the fact (I guess) that they haven't been implemented (or not extensively enough to satisfy Sovereign Citizen types like Alex (I guess)) indicates that something is lacking.

And BTW, if you don't want LEOs to use discretion to address the infinite variety of circumstances and "facts", that are characteristic of many real world disputes and self-seeking behaviors, many of which will be intentionally circumvented, manipulated, or contested by evil-doers and iSovereign Citizens and like-minded innocent patriots who never do anything wrong, illegal, unlawful, or criminal, then you will need more rather than fewer laws at all levels of jurisdiction.

Or you could emulate the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and have "no rules" and "no laws". Freedom loving North Americans will simply be left to always do the right thing. We can be sure they will do that because God made man in his image and God is good.

Discretion lies at the heart of the general critique here. It is dangerous, but it is also fairly useful. While using it to target free speech is something we'd generally disagree with, it's also used in many cases where it fits better. Think tax evasion and Al Capone.

Ideally, this wouldn't be necessary. But investigative procedures and criminal police work have in many cases been unable to live up to the level of enforcement necessary without them. It's a fine line however, and in no case should be accept an ideological argument that either view is without question. This is especially true of the assuming the system should have absolute discretion, so critiques like this are welcome. There are many federal laws which should be curtailed. As investigative processes have improved, the need for them has become less. Curtailment has occurred, but mostly the curtailment has been administrative, rather than legal, so the bogeyman of an overreaching administrative arm is a possible, if not highly probable, worry.

I find the push for greater anonymity to be somewhat toxic to the process of improvement. Being better at finding, and proving those who break the laws we should take most seriously, murder, rape, assault or manslaughter, would give good cause to curtail discretion in other areas for investigators, judges and the rest of the criminal justice system.

Finance is one of those areas with the most disconnect. The average person will argue both for greater anonymity in finance, and also despair over the lack of punishment for financial wrongdoers. I say wrongdoers, rather than criminal, because in this area a significant bulk of the violation is not illegal, or at least requires a great stretch of discretion. But also, the ability to prove the violation is often missing. Everyone suspects it. The circumstantial proof is there in large enough amounts to say it's endemic, but the non-circumstantial proof is hard to put together for individual cases.

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