While Eric Garner’s death has instigated further conversation and protest over police misconduct and institutional racism, the circumstances surrounding his killing have brought another issue to light, too: We have a lot of laws.
According to legal scholar Douglas Husak, author of Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law, an estimated 70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could land them in jail. And thanks to the labyrinthine federal code, most have no idea they’ve run afoul of the law at all (in Alabama, for example, it’s a crime to “maim oneself for the purpose of gaining sympathy,” and be careful not to display any deformed animals in Florida, where that’s illegal). Husak quotes another law expert, William Stuntz, who argues that we are close to “a world in which the law on the books makes everyone a felon.”
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