Too Many Laws Means Too Many Criminals

There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker told the Wall Street Journal in July 2011. “That is not an exaggeration.”

That may sound unbelievable, but this is a lesson some Americans have, sadly, learned the hard way, through no real fault of their own.

John Yates, for example, built his career as a commercial fisherman. In August 2007, Yates and his crew were fishing in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast when a state conservation officer, who was also a deputized federal agent, boarded his vessel to inspect their catch of red grouper.

After inspecting some 3,000 fish, the official identified 72 red grouper that did not meet the minimum 20-inch conservation standard and issued a citation from the state. He ordered Yates to bring the undersized catch when he returned to port.

When Yates returned to port the next day, armed federal agents stood by while inspectors reexamined his catch, finding only 69 fish under the minimum standard. Federal officials accused Yates of destroying evidence — the missing three red grouper — related to a federal investigation.

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