November 14, 2017

NO EXCUSE FOR NO EXCUSE?: Clark Neily asks a simple question – why do we still cling to the ancient maxim, “ignorance of the law is no excuse?” The sheer weight of criminal law alone makes it difficult to justify:

There have been multiple attempts to count the number of federal crimes, including by the Department of Justice, and no one has yet succeeded. Title 18 of the United States Code, which governs crimes and criminal procedure, has over 6,000 sections, and it is estimated that there are more than 4,500 federal crimes and over 300,000 agency regulations containing criminal penalties. And of course, this does not include the dizzying array of state and local criminal codes, ignorance of which is practically assured but still not excused.

As Clark asks, “If the government cannot even count all of the criminal laws it has enacted, how on earth can citizens be expected to obey them?”