America has too many criminal laws on the books. The most recent attempt at an official estimate from the Justice Department, completed more than 35 years ago, found that the federal government had defined more than 3,000 crimes in statute, a number that may well have doubled since then.
Thousands more acts are criminal under federal regulations. Criminal laws and regulations threaten prison sentences for offenses ranging from trafficking in snakehead fish to selling mattresses without warning tags. Moreover, states and localities maintain so many criminal laws on the book that nobody even ventures a comprehensive count.