NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Variety Of Federal Crimes

February 23, 1999

Sixteen years ago, the Justice Department estimated there were some 3,000 federal crimes on the lawbooks. Experts say the number has gone up considerably since then.

In its recent report warning that Congress has been passing too many criminal laws, an American Bar Association panel headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese admitted it could not determine just how many federal crimes there are.

Here are a few of them:

  • It is illegal to repair or recondition gambling devices in the District of Columbia, and it is forbidden to fraudulently use the emblems of the Red Cross, the Swiss Confederation and the 4-H.
  • It is a federal offense for Americans to invade friendly nations or parade around in their military uniforms -- leaving it presumably legal to go around dressed like a colonel in Iraq's Republican Guard.
  • It is illegal to interfere with a lighthouse keeper or import honeybee semen.
  • Americans are barred from working aboard slave ships or transporting water hyacinths.

Cattle rustling is a federal crime, as is the theft of a "major" artwork. It is also a federal offense to disclose how someone voted in a referendum conducted by the Fresh Cut Flower Promotion Board or Fresh Cut Greens Promotion Board.

And there is a law specifically aimed at those who wreck trains.

Source: Dale McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service), "Up Against 3,000 Federal Laws," Washington Times, February 20, 1999.


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