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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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April 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 April. 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.

The Trial Lawyer
The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes to Win, 2nd ed.
Written by David Berg
$99.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-110-1

The ABA is offering 25% off with promo code REVIEW19

Representing People with Mental Disabilities
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers
Edited by Elizabeth Kelley
$49.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64105-176-7

The ABA is offering 25% off with promo code REVIEW19

Internet of ThingsInternet of Things (IoT): Legal Issues, Policy, & Practical Strategies
Edited by Cynthia H. Cwik, Christopher A. Suarez, and Lucy L. Thomson
$89.95, Paperback, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64105-364-8


Thank you to James Michel for generously donating John Lennon vs. The USA: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History, part of our August 2018 Book Drive.

Thank you to Althea Kippes for generously donating both books from our February Book Drive — California Animal Laws Handbook, 2019 and The Art of Fact Investigation.

Thank you to Brenna Moorhead for generously donating Dred Scott v. Sandford: Opinions and Contemporary Commentary, from our May 2018 Book Drive.

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


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


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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!