Felony convictions can accompany excessively broad laws

Many people in Texas and across the United States are concerned about excessive criminalization and the involvement of too many people in the criminal justice system. Some have drawn attention to absurd or overreaching laws that remain on the books that can lead to a felony conviction. For example, an athlete who went for a snowmobile ride was then lost in a blizzard, racking up costs to the government to find and rescue him. However, he wasn't just hit with a large bill; instead, he was convicted of a federal criminal offense and sentenced to six months in prison.

In another case, a security contractor was convicted for telling customers of a company that he previously worked for about a breach in the company's security system. He was convicted and served a 16-month sentence for "impairing the integrity" of the system for exposing the security hole. While his conviction was later abandoned by the Justice Department following high-profile outrage, it continues to serve as an example of the potential for overzealous felony prosecutions. People convicted of felonies can be subject to heavy fines and jail or prison time. Even more, they can lose opportunities for housing, work and education, and in some cases, they are denied the right to vote.

One task force of the House of Representatives was unable to complete an accounting of all federal crimes on the books in 2013 because it would require far more resources than were allocated for the task. This is particularly concerning because of the advantage and state support prosecutors enjoy in court.

Across the country, there are 2.3 million people in prison, a number referred to by some as a national outrage. People facing criminal charges may work with a criminal defense attorney to challenge police and prosecution allegations before trial and in the courtroom.

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