We're all guilty
According to a Department of Justice analysis back in the 1980s, the number of federal criminal offenses stood at around 3,000. By 2007, the Heritage Foundation reports, the number had soared to 4,450 or more. Many of them have little or none of the traditional requirement of mens rea—i.e., criminal intent. Which means many of those caught up in the law commit felonies without having the slightest idea what they’re doing is wrong. (Example: mailing potentially flammable material without a warning sticker on the box.)
And as Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley has noted, congress">Congress has delegated most of its rulemaking responsibilities to federal agencies—and given them a great deal of judicial authority to enforce them: “The result is that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court. In a given year, federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings, including trials, while federal agencies complete more than 939,000.”
Executive agencies jealously guard that power, too: A couple of years ago the EPA not only threatened to fine an Idaho couple $75,000 per day for building on an alleged wetland, it insisted that Mike and Chantell Sackett had no right to challenge the agency in court. (The Supreme Court eventually ruled otherwise, unanimously.)
Yet another reason to limit government and its power over almost every facet of our lives. While that struggle continues, remember: be careful out there, folks, or else some government agency may decide to haul you into its own court and trample every right you've ever had.