This is a very thoughtful and vigorously argued book about the injustices that arise when prosecutors seek to expand the reach of federal criminal statutes beyond their proper field of application. The author has litigated many of the cases he discusses, and is able to translate the complexities of that experience intelligently and without condescension, but also without all of the unnecessary technical details that lawyers writing for a general audience sometimes get bogged down in. Harvey Silverglate is an institution in his own right: a tireless advocate for civil liberties, prolific writer, and astute student of the law, there are few people who have a stronger commitment to illuminating the practical workings of the criminal justice system and their relationship to broader currents in the law. This is a must-read for those interested in criminal law, civil liberties, and the recent history of the Department of Justice, by a writer who has the courage of his convictions and voices them powerfully and well.
The product description of this book on amazon.com (the US site) starts by claiming that "The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day". So I was keen to find out what crimes these might be, that ordinary people were unconsciously committing in such profusion. Sadly, that is something you cannot learn by reading this book. As far as I can ascertain, there is literally no mention of "three crimes a day" or anything similar on any of its pages, from the foreword by Alan M Dershowitz to the index. The quotes published on the book's jacket are much more accurate: "Now comes veteran defense lawyer and civil libertarian Harvey A. Silverglate... exposing... a pattern of serious abuses and convictions of innocent people in some of the most famous (as well as obscure) federal cases of recent decades"... "...Silverglate has written a work peerless in revelations about the mad expansion of federal statutes whose result is to define, as criminal, practices no rational citizen would have viewed as illegal..."..."...federal prosecutors have conceived of something truly frightening - punishment without crime..."
Although the book is bound to disappoint anyone looking for a lurid expose of how no decent citizen is safe from the US justice system, it is a valuable and well-written critique of some recent trends in that system. In particular, Silverglate calls attention to Congress' habit of drafting and approving vague laws that can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways depending on the beliefs and attitudes of prosecutors, judges, and juries.Read more ›
Harvey Silverglate does an extraordinary job analyzing the erosion of rights and the risks it carries to liberty in America in his book, Three Felonies a Day, How the Feds Target the Innocent.
This book is a must read for anyone who cares about the preservation of liberty and putting a check on the encroachment of the federal government in the every day lives of citizens.
He shows how the Department of Justice has led a steady march to expand their reach into the lives of ordinary Americans. The result? Panoply of laws giving them the right to prosecute just about anyone for anything at will.
Their broad application of the Deprivation of Honest Services Statutes in White Collar Crime and a host of other legal gymnastics give them a club every bit as powerful as the Soviet Union at the height of its power. In the Soviet Union and other dictatorships the tools of federalization of all crimes and trampling liberties usually reside in what is commonly called "Defamation Statutes."
Mr. Silverglate identifies numerous laws and Department of Justice interpretations and applications that give them authority rivaling the Soviet Union in its heyday. This boils down to a scandalous use of the federal instruments of powers residing in the executive branch at the Department of Justice that go unchecked.
For anyone who cares about liberty I recommend this book. It is makes a powerful contribution to the cause of justice and freedom and ranks as a modern day call to action equal to Thomas Paine's pamphlet, Common Sense published in 1776.
Mr. Siverglate brings current day threats to our liberties into focus just as Mr. Paine brought the need for the American Revolution into focus in 1776. For Mr. Paine liberty and freedom's enemy resided in King George of England; to Mr. Silverglate it can be found in a runaway Department of Justice intent on expanding its power to intrude and reach into the life of every American.
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This book was recommended by a Federal Judge at a conference on ethics. It is a scary, insightful indictment of criminal prosecutions and the growing trend of prosecutors and judges encroaching on the legislative branch's power to enact laws through manipulation and overreaching interpretations of vague federal laws. It is not only a MUST read, but it is a MUST act upon as well. Kudos Silverglate!
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With such a provocative title, I expected a thorough list of ways that ordinary citizens can be unwittingly trapped by federal law. Maybe a handful of frightening anecdotes, maybe some telling historical analysis.
Instead, after two lengthy introductions, I find a dense chapter defending ... a Florida politician accused of corruption. And a Massachusetts governor. And a Massachusetts House speaker. When I got to the chapter defending Michael Milken I started skimming instead of reading.
Don't get me wrong: if those people were railroaded, then they deserved better. But those aren't the sort of stories that excite people's sympathy. I'd much rather hear about innocent doctors getting tried for prescribing legal painkillers (which Silverglate does address, albeit later), or citizens being sent away for behavior that nobody knew was illegal. When Silverglate writes about one politician going after another, my blood doesn't exactly boil at the injustice being done.
Silverglate writes with a didactic, passionate style. It's likely to inflame the hearts of people who already care about civil liberties. But for people who don't see expanding federal power as that big of a deal, a sob story about how Ken Lay was strung up won't elicit any sympathy.
All of the above would make the book 4 stars. I'm giving it 3 stars because it's a substandard Kindle edition. There's no table of contents. The footnotes don't hyperlink to the end of the text (a feature in every other footnoted book I've read on Kindle). And for a book that's been out nearly a year, it's still far too expensive.