Making a Federal Case Out of It
Regulation by prosecution
(Roman Genn)


In another case, outdoorsman Tom Lindsey and his friends got federal permits to float down the Snake River in Idaho and Oregon but began their rafting days at 7 a.m., rather than the officially permitted 9 a.m. starting time, and used gas stoves at their camps. Lindsey had an anti-government attitude and had had run-ins with Forest Service agents before. On this occasion the agents came by helicopter to arrest the gang, sent him a letter revoking the camping permits, and indicted Lindsey and his brother for the felonies of camping without a permit and building a campfire without a permit. Like Wilson, who was prosecuted after challenging the Army Corps of Engineers, Lindsey may have been prosecuted in part because of his prior run-ins with the feds. The case against Lindsey was ultimately dismissed.

The criminal law is a powerful tool. Traditionally, we have tried to use it sparingly, to condemn the most obviously harmful wrongs. That approach leaves everything else to civil law and regulations and conserves the law’s moral credibility. But regulators increasingly add this powerful weapon to their arsenals to aggrandize their power and force civil settlements.

August 19, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 15

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