Many Failed Efforts to Count Nation's Federal Criminal Laws
WASHINGTON—For decades, the task of counting the total number of federal criminal laws has bedeviled lawyers, academics and government officials.
"You will have died and resurrected three times," and still be trying to figure out the answer, said Ronald Gainer, a retired Justice Department official.
None of these studies broached the separate—and equally complex—question of crimes that stem from federal regulations, such as, for example, the rules written by a federal agency to enforce a given act of Congress. These rules can carry the force of federal criminal law. Estimates of the number of regulations range from 10,000 to 300,000. None of the legal groups who have studied the code have a firm number.
"There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime," said John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor who has also tried counting the number of new federal crimes created in recent years. "That is not an exaggeration."