Book Review: How To Become A Federal Criminal

Well sure, you probably are one already. Today alone, by the time you read this, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn ever better ways from Mike Chase. If Mike’s name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s likely because he’s far better known by his twitter nom du guerre, @CrimeADay. Mike’s Sisyphean project to go from one inane federal offense to another, and reach the end before SMOD finally gets his act together, is a labor of love and inanity. And it shows.

How To Become A Federal Criminal, an illustrated handbook for the aspiring offender, is far more than a collection of the wacky and absurd crimes created either directly, because some dolt took West Side Story to heart, or as an offshoot of some otherwise benign, often trivial, regulation bootstrapped into a crime by federal agency enforcement mechanisms. It’s not so much that there was a desperate need to protect the official tube socks of a postal worker’s uniform from street gang adoption, but that it just worked out that way.

Not that it will prevent the feds from taking you down, if that’s what they have to do.

Mike has that rare combination of wit and wisdom that he weaves throughout the book. It’s not just a collection of dumb and weird crimes, but explanations and anecdotes about how we got into this mess. Lawyers aren’t always funny, no less witty, but Mike is both, and approaches each offense with a subtlety that gives his wit the sort of bite that stings so good.

And, as he proudly announces up front, it has PICTURES!!!. Well, not exactly pics, but diagrams pinpointing the details of laws that distinguish the serious federal offender from the guy who just wants to give a horse the finger.

What? You thought I was kidding?

This is a great book for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. For the lawyers, it delivers the same joy of insanity that comes of reading Crime A Day, but with that dose of irony that only lawyers truly appreciate. It will keep you pushing from chapter to chapter.

For the non-lawyers, it may fall a little short of first year criminal law class, but you will end up not only laughing your butt off, but having a far deeper understanding of the craziness of law, how we ended up with this wild nightmare of tens of thousands of seemingly random regulations enforced at the end of a gun, and why it’s so critical to be careful in framing conduct that can ultimately land you in prison to be limited to what is truly intended.

To cherry pick a few of the prominent oddities in the book would not only steal Mike’s thunder, but do him an injustice. It’s not just about the crimes, but the way Mike tells the front story, the back story and, in his inimical way, the outstanding dopiness in between.

While How To Become A Federal Criminal won’t be available until June, this is one of the few that will be a classic. Just as Mike Chase has been brilliant on the twitters, he’s even better in this book. And the great news it that given how many absurd federal crimes remain on the books, Mike has at least another 532 books to go before exhausting the genre. Get it. Read it. Laugh out loud.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: How To Become A Federal Criminal

  1. Howl

    Sounds like a fun read, entertaining and educational.
    Would it ever be possible to write “How NOT To Become A Federal Criminal?”

      1. Fubar

        To choose in which corner to stay,
        Do not practice unlicensed feng shui.
        Don’t eat pie with your thumb.
        Jack Horner got dumb,
        And a SWAT team just took him away!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Become a Federal agent, FBI, DEA or CBP all seem to have get charges dropped immediately cards.

  2. CLS

    I’ve also preordered two copies. This is one of those books you need a copy for yourself and one to save as a gift when you inevitably forget a birthday/anniversary/significant holiday.

    Which I’m already sure is listed in the book as a federal crime.

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