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Criminalizing America- When Everything is a Crime

Posted by Steve Karimi | Apr 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

I have written about this topic in passing before when I addressed traffic infractions and parking tickets, but it is worth mentioning again, given the recent current events. Life as free Americans is, and has been under attack by the over-criminalization and over-policing- so much so, that having to hire a criminal defense attorney is hardly taboo anymore. It has always been a running joke amongst prosecutors that they could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to. The joke would be funny if an unarmed man could not be strangled to death, just for standing on a public sidewalk. In 2009, Harvey Silverglate's bookThree Felonies a Day” demonstrated how almost any American could be unwittingly guilty of various crimes between breakfast and bedtime. In the U.S. there is an estimated 4,500 federal criminal statutes ‘on the books,' and this does not include state criminal statutes and regulatory offenses, such as parking and traffic regulations. By the sheer magnitude, this means that Americans no longer have clear notice what behavior is proscribed or prescribed anymore. What do you do when everything is now a crime?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds wrote back in 2013 that prosecutorial discretion poses an increasing threat to due process. The notion refers to the fact that prosecuting attorneys and police have nearly absolute powers. They have the power in choosing whether or not to bring criminal charges, when to arrest, when to issue a ticket, deciding the nature of charges, plea bargaining and sentence recommendations, etc. Additionally, Michael Anthony Cottone wrote in his recent essay, “Rethinking Presumed Knowledge of the Law in the Regulatory Age” (Tennessee Law Review) that the mens rea (intent) requirement of a crime withers when the quantity and complexity of laws increase. This poses an increasing problem because a mistake of law (ignorance of the law) is not a valid defense under traditional common law.

What To Do When You are Stopped by the Police

While there are plenty of comical laws that are still on the books t in Washington state (for example, RCW 70.54.050 prohibits having the common cold in public), the general frightening trend throughout Washington state as well as the nation is that over-criminalization is an increasing problem. For example:

If you are stopped or arrested by the police, the first thing to do is to stay calm, answer all basic questions (ie. name, address), and insist on having your lawyer present if they continue to press for substantive questions. It is a good idea to document everything and have your witnesses document, if possible.

Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."

The Law Offices of Steve Karimi is dedicated to protecting the freedom, constitutional rights, and reputation of each of his clients. As a former prosecutor for the state of Washington, he is familiar with the administrative process and the inner workings of government agencies, including police departments. He will handle everything in your case with detail and zeal, including all steps necessary to build your defense, and to keep you out of jail. He specializes in all misdemeanor and felony cases. Contact Snohomish and King County criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi today. We look forward to providing you with superior criminal defense representation.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.