Hammurabi was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty and he is a fixture in history primarily due to the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi came up with the wild concept that citizens should be able to be informed as to what was and was not legal. Thus, the Code of Hammurabi was created and every law of Babylonia was inscribed on a stone pillar placed in the center of the Babylonian empire. If the U.S. federal government were to inscribe every criminal law in our nation onto a pillar in the center of Washington, then such a pillar would reach beyond the heavens.
No one has bothered to try and count the number of federal crimes since the Department of Justice attempted to do so around 1985 in a failed effort to convince Congress to prune the federal criminal code. The American Bar Association has estimated that there may be about 300,000 different criminal laws in the federal code. That is too many. Here are some examples of things which your federal government has decided are illegal:
It is a federal crime to advertise wine in a manner that suggests it has intoxicating qualities. 27 USC §§205, 207 & 27 CFR §4.64(a)(8)
It is a federal crime to sell ice cream that weighs less than 4.5 pounds to the gallon. 21 USC §§331, 333, 343(g) & 21 CFR §135.110(a)(2)
It is a federal crime to sell food labeled with an adjective beside a unit of measure. (Like “jumbo quart” or “full gallon” or “super 12 oz can”) 21 USC §331, 333 & 21 CFR §101.7(f)
It is a federal crime to sell mixed fruit jelly which contains bananas. 21 USC §§331, 333, and 343 & 21 CFR §150.140(b)(2)
It is a federal crime to lose your dog in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley Refuge and look for it for fewer than three days. 16 USC §668dd & 50 CFR §32.68
It is a federal crime to chew gum and handle kumquats at the same time. 42 USC § 271 & 21 CFR §112.32(b)(6); and 21 CFR §112.1(b)
It is a federal crime to sell athlete’s foot medication without a warning to change your socks daily. 21 USC §333 & 22 CFR §333.250(d)(1)
It is a federal crime to sell Irish Whisky that is not compliance with Irish laws. This is a case where you can violate U.S. law by violating the laws of another nation. 27 U.S. Code § 205(e) & 27 CFR 5.22(b)(8)
It is a federal crime for a bicyclist to not yield to a horse in Mammoth Cave National Park. 18 USC §1865 & 36 CFR §7.36(c)(2)(iii)
It is a federal crime to injure a lamp belonging to the federal government in Washington, D.C. 40 USC §8103(b)(4)
It is a federal crime to sell lottery tickets at the post office … unless you are blind, then it is perfectly legal. 18 USC 3061(c)(4)(B) & 39 CFR 232.1(f)
It is a federal crime to hunt and engage in population control of Canadian geese from a car … unless you are paraplegic or missing one or both legs. 16 USC §703 & 50 CFR §21.61(e)
It is a federal crime to sell makeup which has been made from a cow with a broken leg. 22 USC §331 & 21 CFR §700.27(a)(1);(b)(1)
It is a federal crime to display the rainbow flag (sometimes referred to as a gay pride flag) inside the Supreme Court building. 40 USC §6135
Finally, it is a federal crime to fly a kite within five miles of an airport. 49 USC §46316(a) & 14 CFR §101.13(a)(4)
This means that it is a federal crime to fly a kite in downtown Hillsboro and throughout most of the Rocky Fork Lake region. So be careful citizens of Highland County, and continue to be wary of your federal government. We are all felons, even if we do not know it.
John Judkins is a Greenfield attorney.