Found in 43 comments
by beagle3
2017-08-04
It's almost every country these days, see e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp... - which has a slightly clickbaity title, but worrying content.

But it seems Shkreli's transgressions are not of the "three felonies before breakfast" variety, but rather things that are indeed often prosecuted (though, it should be noted, as everyone wronged was made whole, it is likely that he would not have been prosecuted if he had not been in the media spotlight as a villain; other remarks here mentioned that the founding of Fedex had a similar fraud committed, for example).


Original thread
by Buge
2017-08-03
Will Google?

"The law is the law" is a very simplistic way of looking at things.

Laws can be challenged in court. Google is doing that with a Canadian law right now[1].

Laws can be found unconstitutional. Laws can be overturned. Laws can be repealed.

Laws can be unenforced. For example smoking weed in Colorado. A simple "the law is the law" outlook might conclude that it's illegal to sell weed in Colorado, and any business doing so "will simply be subjected to massive damage".

Laws can be interpreted and misinterpreted by judges, lawyers, prosecutors, etc. Smart people can disagree about what a law means. Some interpretations say anyone under 13 who reads the New York Times website is a criminal under the CFAA[2].

Some people argue that the average person commits 3 felonies a day[3].

[1] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/07/google-sues-in-u...

[2] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/04/are-you-teenager-who-r...

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...


Original thread
by Buge
2017-07-21
Is it really much less severe than murder? The guy in arkad's link got life for stealing $153 of videotapes.

And some people make the argument that people commit on average 3 felonies a day https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...


Original thread
by mpweiher
2017-01-09
> I think it depends on whether they did anything illegal.

Less than you might think. Have you seen Three Felonies a Day[1] ? Or heard of "indict a ham sandwich"[2]?

The law being what it is today, and prosecutorial discretion being what it is, it is almost entirely up to whether someone wants to prosecute.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...

[2] http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/indi...


Original thread
by mpweiher
2017-01-09
> I think it depends on whether they did anything illegal.

Less than you might think. Have you seen Three Felonies a Day[1] ? Or heard of "indict a ham sandwich"[2]?

The law being what it is today, and prosecutorial discretion being what it is, it is almost entirely up to whether someone wants to prosecute.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...

[2] http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/indi...


Original thread
by jerf
2016-12-28
Three crimes a day is probably a reference to this book: https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...

(I know it's better to provide references to web pages and not books, but I don't have a web page that recreates that book on hand. Suggestions welcome.)

As I understand it, it's an estimate, not an actual figure. In order to perform such a survey, we'd have to sample people, record their entire daily activity, and determine how many crimes were committed. Determining how many crimes were committed would require an army of lawyers and private investigators... and that's the real point. As a normal citizen without an army of lawyers, you should have no confidence whatsoever that you are not committing crimes. If measured by "what could be used to convict you if the government wanted you out of the way" I'd guess 3 per day is a grotesque underestimate, at least one order of magnitude and I wouldn't bet much against 2.


Original thread
by tptacek
2016-12-14
That we are a nation of laws obviously does not mean we're a nation of ruthless, pointless enforcement of laws, or else we'd all be in prison for Harvey Silverglate's "Orange Juice" crimes.

https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...


Original thread
by EvanAnderson
2016-11-22
In the United States, at least, it's pretty likely that you're committing "crimes" unknowingly with some regularity. No fabrication is likely necessary if the authorities want to put you in a position of taking a plea bargain or gambling that you'll end up in prison. (See https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp... if this interests you.)
Original thread
by clarkmoody
2016-09-14
> A mode of thought I would expect in socialist countries, not the US...

The United States government has done an excellent bit of propaganda to convince the bulk of the public that they are the most free people on earth. We salute the flag and sing the national anthem at games. We have the presidents' pictures on the walls of our classrooms. We chant "USA" at political rallies.

But the government of the United States has perpetrated terrible violence and destruction of liberty against its own citizens and many more abroad. Through endless military engagement abroad to harassment, detainment, and imprisonment at home, the government serves its own interests first, and enhancing and preserving your liberty is not among them.

I should be very concerned about coming to the attention of anyone within government -- at any level. Even the local code enforcement board can extract time, energy, and money from you should you come under scrutiny.

But as others have said, you're already on the lists. No need to be paranoid. Go ahead and sign the Snowden petition. It's just one more data point on your dossier. The government already has enough on you to put you away for life if you become inconvenient to the state. Three Felonies a Day[1] and all that.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp...


Original thread
by jdietrich
2016-08-19
by sokoloff
2016-05-05
Three Felonies a Day excerpt:

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. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions...

http://amzn.to/24vLd3O


Original thread
by jseliger
2016-03-31
It's the theory that if you write enough laws then everybody is a criminal

That's already true, as pointed out in Three Felonies a Day: http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/.... Everyone is already a criminal if someone wants to look carefully enough.


Original thread
by
2016-03-30
by hga
2016-03-06
In the US, a CEO level employee would commit an estimated 3 Federal felonies a day (perhaps more, since I think the book is aimed a bit below that level): http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...

Improvements are just not going to happen prior to the downfall of our current ruling class; a window into how this currently works is the excellent Extortion, How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544103343, or as Ayn Rand put it in Atlas Shrugged:

Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age of beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one 'makes' them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted-and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on the guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.


Original thread
by bryanlarsen
2016-02-22
"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." Cardinal Richelieu

According to http://www.amazon.ca/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/1..., a typical American commits three felonies a day.


Original thread
by abfan1127
2016-02-17
The average American commits 3 felonies a day. Just add it to the list.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by hga
2015-10-21
No joke, it's in fact a book about how the average white collar worker indeed commits an average of 3 Federal felonies a day: Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...). Forward by Alan Dershowitz, which implies it's not out to lunch.
Original thread
by tiatia
2015-10-09
As an American living in China, I agree with you 100%. A few points:

- I would not consider Taobao a clone.

- The US has its advantages but also its disadvantages. Funding (e.g. SBIR grants) is very corrupt in the US (corrupt in the Latin sense, meaning not necessary meaning bribes but personal relationships. I could tell stories, Lordy Lord).

- "true rule of law" The true rule of law is a question of money in the states. For the average citizen the law has become more a risk than an asset.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by hga
2015-10-08
Refusing to comply with an NSA order will likely just end you up in jail on something else because the government has the power to lock you up.

That's the thesis of Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...), 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. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague....

He'll have a lot more examples, I'm sure.

So we can't hold the companies who complied with them entirely responsible, as those companies are made up of individuals who have families to think of.

Especially since the Feds have no compunctions against going after your family if they can't pin something on you. E.g. junk bond figure Michael Millikan, who's real crime was creating a market for poorly managed companies.


Original thread
by chx
2015-03-19
Read http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/... even if it's exaggerating, even if it's twisting the truth as some claim there are some frightening amount of felonies you can commit and because of that you can't ever presume you are innocent. But even if you are, as the wonderful video linked by lgierth shows you can be in trouble. Just don't talk to the police.
Original thread
by supdog
2015-03-12
Normal people commit felonies doing normal things every day.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by ghufran_syed
2015-03-01
I think you're asking the right question, just the wrong way. Your question comes across (to me, and possibly others) as "prove to me that not paying myself a salary is illegal?", when I think your real question is "Does it make sense to do this, given the other competing demands on a founder's time?" My personal take is that if you're successful (let's use getting to your first actual cash compensation non-founder hire as a proxy for this), you can fix it at that time, if you don't make it that far, it's just as well you didn't waste time on it.

Besides, you probably commit "3 felonies per day", what's one more? :-) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527487044715045744389... http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent-ebo...

The following section of Paul Graham's essay "Why startups condense in America", at http://paulgraham.com/america.html is relevant:

"7. America Is Not Too Fussy.

If there are any laws regulating businesses, you can assume larval startups will break most of them, because they don't know what the laws are and don't have time to find out.

For example, many startups in America begin in places where it's not really legal to run a business. Hewlett-Packard, Apple, and Google were all run out of garages. Many more startups, including ours, were initially run out of apartments. If the laws against such things were actually enforced, most startups wouldn't happen.

That could be a problem in fussier countries. If Hewlett and Packard tried running an electronics company out of their garage in Switzerland, the old lady next door would report them to the municipal authorities.

But the worst problem in other countries is probably the effort required just to start a company. A friend of mine started a company in Germany in the early 90s, and was shocked to discover, among many other regulations, that you needed $20,000 in capital to incorporate. That's one reason I'm not typing this on an Apfel laptop. Jobs and Wozniak couldn't have come up with that kind of money in a company financed by selling a VW bus and an HP calculator. We couldn't have started Viaweb either.

Here's a tip for governments that want to encourage startups: read the stories of existing startups, and then try to simulate what would have happened in your country. When you hit something that would have killed Apple, prune it off.

Startups are marginal. They're started by the poor and the timid; they begin in marginal space and spare time; they're started by people who are supposed to be doing something else; and though businesses, their founders often know nothing about business. Young startups are fragile. A society that trims its margins sharply will kill them all."


Original thread
by ims
2015-01-29
If you want to know more, check out "Three Felonies a Day" by Harvey Silvergate[1]. (I don't necessarily agree with his take on everything, but it's still eye opening and worth a read.)

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by higherpurpose
2014-11-26
The Pre-Crime Database - or rather the Don't Make Us Use Something We Have Against You Database.

Related: http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by hga
2014-08-29
Well, you could be at the other end of the communications, their 4 word description is "Connecting Inmates to Society".

In a "Three Felonies a Day" (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...) society the odds of your ending up in one or the other position are probably greater than you think, certainly greater than you hope.


Original thread
by jblow
2013-12-08
I would be careful with putting so much emphasis on legality. The fact is that there are so many laws, and some of them are so weird and convoluted, and nobody really understands them all; pretty much everyone does several illegal things every day without even realizing it:

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...

Under these kinds of conditions, if someone in an appropriate branch of government wants to nail you for any reason, they can. Especially now that widespread spying makes it much easier to identify specific transgressions.

So I am not so sure why you would take such a hard line on legality when in fact such a stance is just waiting to come back and bite you (and everyone).

... In fact, now it is the government's position that there are SECRET LAWS that you can be violating but not even know why you are violating them; they can arrest you and not tell you exactly why they arrested you, because the reason is secret. How are you supposed to engage in strictly legal behavior when you don't even know what is legal and what is illegal?


Original thread
by smsm42
2013-10-13
by gnosis
2013-08-05
"The parallel construction wouldn't work if the suspects were not actually committing crimes."

See "Three Felonies a Day"[1]

Also, note the following quote from the original article:

"most drug-trafficking defendants plead guilty before trial"

In fact, something like 90% or more of people accused of crimes in the US never get a trial, because they plead guilty. They plead guilty because prosecutors pile on so many charges that the defendants are afraid to risk life in jail if they happen to lose (in a judicial system that's usually stacked against them). Defending a case in Federal court is also incredibly expensive and traumatic. See the Aaron Swartz case for good examples of all of the above.

[1] - http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by generj
2013-07-31
Just from a Natural Language perspective, this is amazing. By using the code as as a corpus, we can see how differently legal language differs from day-to-day parlance. Such an analysis might be fascinating, especially if we compare to word frequency in Google Ngram's historical index. I suspect legal language trails several decades behind modern lingo.

Semi-intelligent queries can be executed, such that ignorance of the law might be abated. Imagine saying "Siri, is it illegal to do X?" and Siri answering you. This is important, because of the "Three Felonies a Day" syndrome with unwitting violations of the law. http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by Alex3917
2013-06-10
"It's not just that most Americans don't believe they have anything to hide from NSA. It's that they don't have anything to hide from NSA."

I'm not so sure about that. Roughly 90% of Americans use illegal drugs at some point in their lives[1], and supposedly the average American commits 3 felonies per day.[2]

[1] http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/vol2_2009...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by digitalengineer
2013-06-05
Relevant: Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent

"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. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. "

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by shrike
2013-02-20
I'd recommend Three Felonies A Day by Harvey Silverglate. It's a good review of exactly this issue.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Innocent-ebook/dp/B...


Original thread
by digitalengineer
2013-02-01
It would be nice if BoingBoing actually linked to this book:

"Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" 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. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by wissler
2013-01-15
Doing her job? Please see the movie "Judgement at Nuremberg" regarding "I was just doing my job". Seriously, see this movie.

And, "no less"? On the contrary, all prosecutors do substantially less. They don't actually apply the law most of the time, if they did, we'd probably all be in prison. See this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by carbocation
2013-01-12
Quite frequently, you will be blocked from using your assets to defend from such suits (your assets will be frozen), so good luck attempting to spend your $1.5 million anyway.

The book Three Felonies a Day talks about this (the main focus is how the government's tactics for working its way up the food chain to the apex criminal, which is not related to Aaron's story, but the author's exposition of costs and property restrictions are relevant). http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by jmaygarden
2013-01-03
I highly recommend referenced book by the author of the article, Harvey Silverglate, called "Three Felonies a Day" [1]. It's a great read and details many similar cases.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...


Original thread
by carbocation
2013-01-03
> He says the New York district attorney’s office tried to strong-arm him into a plea agreement that would have had him hacking into the systems of his software clients in order to obtain the usernames and passwords of gamblers and their bookmakers to help authorities gather evidence of illegal gambling.

If the premise of Harvey Silverglate's book, "Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent,"[0] is correct, then this is quite plausible. A key message from Silverglate's book is that because it is impossible to know if one's behavior is lawful[1], it is impossible to be sure that one operates within the contours of the law at all times. Thus, if you would be convenient to nail not because of anything in particular that you've done but because you can probably be convinced to testify against someone higher up in their chain, beware.

From my recollection of this book, this was a tactic more typically used at the federal level, so either the tactic is spreading or my recollection of its state-level use is just dim.

EDIT: In response to all of the other comments pointing out other absurd choices the authorities could make (they could prosecute Pepsi since they sell soda to these operations, etc), Silverglate's book provides a nice framework for why this programmer would be targeted and not Pepsi. He's not the fodder, but he does have meaningful access to the fodder (whereas Pepsi surely does not).

[0] = http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...

[1] = In contrast, it's often quite possible to know when one's behavior is unlawful.


Original thread
by Spooky23
2012-11-12
From a legal framework point of view, the US is there already. It probably isn't as blatantly abused. Make no mistake, if you attract the ire of an aggressive prosecutor, you can and will be charged with some sort of serious crime.

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...

Another angle in the US is are situations where you cannot be charged with a crime, but your property can. For example, if you are travelling on an airplane with a "large" quantity of cash, the authorities can (and have) essentially "arrest" your cash via asset forfeiture. You have rights, but your property does not.


Original thread
by hga
2011-09-17
Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey Silverglate: http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/...

"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. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch..."


Original thread

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