Have you ever melted down a penny? Used a power tool at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge? Sold jock itch cream without telling users to use it every day for two weeks? If so, congratulations, you've broken a federal law!
The Twitter account @CrimeADay offers up, as it promises, one federal crime every day. It has been around for about four years and could go on for decades, given that the U.S. federal code, as printed by the Government Printing Office, contains 35 volumes each about 1,300 pages long.
In his 2011 book Three Felonies a Day (Encounter Broadsides), civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate estimated that Americans committed just that, on average, largely because federal laws have exploded in number and become incredibly broad and vague.
There's not even a consensus about how many crimes are in the U.S. code. The Justice Department estimated it contained 3,000 crimes back in 1982, but in 1998 the American Bar Association said it was probably much higher; in 2008 the conservative Heritage Foundation estimated 4,500 crimes as the minimum. In 2013, the Congressional Research Service said it lacked the manpower and resources to actually calculate the number.
There's not much rhyme or reason to the crimes that are chosen for the feed, which is only fitting, as the same could be said of the U.S. federal code. Sometimes the tweets are timely. On May 3, after a woman was convicted for disrupting the nomination hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general by laughing, the account shared 40 USC §5104(e)(2)(G) and 5109, which makes it a crime to "parade, demonstrate, picket" (or laugh hysterically at the attorney general?) in the Capitol.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "@CrimeADay".