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How many felonies have you committed today? If youre like most Americans, you probably violate federal or state law several times each day, without even knowing it.
The criminalization of American law is a topic I return to occasionally, most recently in this post. Thats because state and federal governments constantly expand the list of activities deemed criminal offenses. More recently, children attending public schools have been deemed criminals as well.
In Las Vegas, you can be thrown in jail for spilling a drink in a nightclub. Thats what happened to Justin OConnell last summer. Apparently a bouncer noticed OConnell spill his drink and then asked him to leave. OConnell then asked for his $30 cover charge back. The nightclub then called police, who escorted OConnell to jail. He now faces criminal trespassing charges.
Here are some other criminal offenses in Las Vegas (and many other cities, for that matter):
- Sitting or lying down on public sidewalks in the downtown redevelopment district
- Buying drinks for more than three people within 24 hours
- Feeding the homeless in public. Incidentally, its also illegal to feed pigeons
- Pawning your dentures
- Defacing a hamburger, by leaving its contents anywhere in public
Thats the tip of the criminalization iceberg. Have you ever purchased sinus medication over the counter? Well, so did Diane Avera, a 45-year-old Mississippi grandmother. Now she faces a year in prison after being convicted of intent to manufacture amphetamine. Its a long story, but basically, Mississippi law requires a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in many sinus medications. To save time and aggravation, Avera drove to Alabama to purchase her medication, but got caught up in a sting operation.
Its no wonder the United States has by far the worlds largest prison population per capita anywhere on earth. More people rot in local, county, state, or federal prisons in the United States than in all other developed countries combined.
According to the World Prison Population List. Ninth Edition (2012):
More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pretrial detainees/remand prisoners or as sentenced prisoners. Almost half of these are in the United States (2.29 million), Russia (0.81 million) or China (1.65 million sentenced prisoners)
The U.S. has the highest prison population rate of 743 per 100,000 of its national population followed by Rwanda (595 per 100,000).
Paraphrasing President Obama, Yes we can put you in prison!
Even more disturbing the criminalization of America is now creeping into high schools, junior high schools and most recently, even kindergarten classes. Case in point: Last month, a five-year old boy (from Mississippi again!) wound up in the back of a police car because he didnt wear the right color shoes to class. His teacher told him he had to wear black shoes.
Unfortunately, the little boy had no black shoes, and his mother apparently didnt have the money to buy any. So she improvised. She used a marker to cover up his red and white tennis shoes. Unfortunately, she missed a couple spots. When the boy showed up the next day, his teacher called the cops. Shortly thereafter, police escorted him home in a police car and delivered a stern warning to his mother.
Apparently, this is business as usual in Mississippi. Indeed, the U.S. Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit against officials in one Mississippi county for running what critics call a school-to-prison pipeline.
Youll hopefully excuse me from making a couple observations:
- Anyone can inadvertently run afoul of Americas metastasizing network of criminal laws. Spilling a drink in a nightclub is hardly what anyone would consider a criminal offense. Neither is purchasing medication over-the-counter.
- Once you have a criminal record, especially a felony conviction, youll find it much more difficult to live outside the United States, or to acquire a second citizenship and passport.
Not to belabor the obvious, but if you have any interest at all in a second nationality, dont wait until some inadvertent slip-up results in an arrest and possible felony conviction. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to acquire a second passport.