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December Book of the Month: How to Become a Federal Criminal

how-to-become-a-federal-criminalHow to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender
Written and Illustrated by Mike Chase
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian


The road to hell may very well be paved with federal statutes and regulations, as demonstrated by our December Book of the Month, How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender by Mike Chase. As the title promises, this book enumerates (with pictures!) the seemingly endless ways anyone can descend into a life of crime, even by accident. Chase writes with his tongue firmly in cheek, but even without the rude humor the actual statutes, regulations, and congressional hearings are outrageous and absurd enough to amuse and shock everyone. Here you will find lurid accounts of the depraved Yellowstone Off-Leash Cat Walker, and those wayward souls who dress like postal workers—when they aren’t even postal workers. Divided into eight sections based on type of offenses, this book barely scratches the surface of the innumerable crimes proliferated by Congress and various federal agencies.

Chase, an attorney who also runs the popular Twitter account @CrimeADay, clearly revels in the madness of it all, writing with a mix of juvenile glee and genuine befuddlement over how ridiculous these crimes can be. But he includes more than just illustrations on how to mail a mongoose; it’s clear that he has put extensive time and research into his work. This “handbook” also serves as a simple and easy to understand primer on the basics of the criminal justice system and how to read a federal statute, useful for aspiring offenders and law-abiding folk alike. He explores how there came to be so many federal crimes—more than it’s conceivably possible to count—tracing the labyrinthine path from the three listed crimes in the Constitution to the thousands upon thousands of criminal statutes and rules carrying criminal penalties we have today. There are also brief summaries of some of the stranger cases that went to court (some involving margarine).

This book not only gives you endless facts to share at cocktail parties, but also leaves you with some important takeaways. Such as, don’t bother trying to modify the weather with your weather laser unless you’ve filled out the right forms first. Or how the only thing standing between you and a cell might be how properly you label that box of dead bees you want to mail. And don’t even think about leaving the country with a pocketful of nickels.

Find How to Become a Federal Criminal (along with our other criminal law materials) at the library today!


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Serve Your Time, Regain Your Vote

regain your vote
Who do you want for D.A.?

By Ruth Geos

Conviction of a felony in California results in a disqualification to vote, but only while the sentence is being served and the parole period satisfied. Once the time is done, those with felony criminal convictions can take up their citizen’s right to vote again. Indeed, the upcoming November 5th Consolidated Municipal Election in San Francisco offers an opportunity to give direct input on criminal justice policies—the race for the San Francisco District Attorney, one of the most contested parts of the ballot. The CA Secretary of State offers an easy, even pretty, step-by-step checklist on regaining the right to vote, along with a link to go forward to register to vote for the very next election ahead and those coming in 2020.

Other states have other rules for suspending or restoring the right to vote to those with felony convictions, ranging from no suspension at all of the right, to the need for a governor’s pardon. Here, though, it is a relatively easy process. The rules are spelled out in the California Elections Code, Section 2101, which sets the details on who is entitled to vote or pre-register to vote, and have been interpreted by the CA Courts as protecting the right to vote except during the period of a felony sentence or parole.

Elections Code § 2101.

(a) A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.

(b) A person entitled to preregister to vote in an election shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 16 years of age.

(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Imprisoned” means currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.

(2) “Parole” means a term of supervision by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

(3) “Conviction” does not include a juvenile adjudication made pursuant to Section 203 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

CA jail prisoners are different. CA prisoners in county jail can still vote while serving their misdemeanor or felony jail sentence, a parole violation, during probation, and under a variety of other circumstances. To check the finer points on qualifications to vote now, and the process for going forward to exercise that right, consult with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Prisoner Legal Services at 415-558-2472.


For more questions, resources, to register to vote, or to vote, call or email the SF Department of Elections at 415-554-4375, SFVote@sfgov.org.
Don’t forget to register to vote by October 21st for the upcoming election.
And check out our elections guide for more information.


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New LibGuide: Criminal Law

You don’t have to be a criminal defense attorney to be interested in criminal law.  From the early crime pamphlets published by the hundreds starting in the 1500s, to the lurid crime journalism of the Victorian penny press, the public’s appetite for sensational crime stories has been ever-present and insatiable. And thanks to recent and current books, shows, and podcasts, such as I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (about the Golden State Killer) and the multi-season Serial podcast, true crime remains one of the most popular genres across all multimedia platforms.

While knowing all the ins and outs of criminal law isn’t necessary to enjoy the genre, understanding the basic workings of our criminal justice system is essential for an informed member of society. Criminal law covers federal and state laws which make certain behaviors and actions crimes, punishable by either imprisonment or fines. Our newest LibGuide, The San Francisco Law Library Guide to Criminal Law, collects criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminal justice resources available at the library, as well as online and in the Bay Area.

Inside you’ll find links to basic criminal law information, federal, state, and local codes, a list of our criminal law print collection, resources for finding a lawyer or free or low-cost legal services, and much more. This guide is intended for practitioners, students and researchers, and anyone interested in learning how our criminal justice system works (whether stemming from an interest in the true crime genre or not) — from investigation and arrest to conviction and sentencing. As with all of our LibGuides, we will keep this guide updated so be sure to check back in.

So give the gift of knowledge this holiday season by sharing the library’s Criminal Law guide!

 


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November Book Drive

Book Drive

Each month we will seek donors to purchase a new title for the Law Library. Here is our Wish List for the month of November, featuring books on workplace sexual harassment, the hardest decisions judges have made, and the criminal justice system. Growing our collection is about so much more than a single book—it is a living demonstration of how the Library expands the public’s access to justice and provides legal practitioners with the tools they need to represent members of our local community. Please see our Donation Guide for more ways to support the Law Library.

Sexual Harassment A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace

Sexual Harassment: A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace
Written by Kathleen Kapusta
$39.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-54380-528-4

Tough Cases

Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made
Edited by Russell F. Canan, Gregory E. Mize, and Frederick H. Weisberg
$26.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62097-386-8

Youre Under Arrest

You’re Under Arrest!
Understanding the Criminal Justice System

by Margaret C. Jasper
$29.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9841404-0-4

To donate, please contact sflawlibrary@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-1791.  We appreciate your contribution!


Recent Book Drive Donations

Thank you to John Kelly for generously donating The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts.

Thank you to Suzanne P. Marria for generously donating To End a Presidency.

Thank you to Shannon K. Mauer for generously donating the ABA’s Women in Law Book Bundle, which includes The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law FirmsGrit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women LawyersZero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession; and Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

Please take a look at our Book Drive page to see Wish List items from prior months. We are still wishing for these books!

Thank you for your support!