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A few words about 360 FEDERAL CRIMES

As noted below, I have a new book out that is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon. If you go there and click on the "look inside" link, you will see that a generous portion of the book is available, including the Foreword, which describes the book in some detail.

The book is intended to cover most of what you need to know about substantive federal criminal law in one paperback volume. This required considerable concission, which may present a challenge for the general reader. Although I am hopeful that non-lawyers, e.g., law enforcement officers, will buy the book, I resisted any temptation to dumb it down (in my experience, law enforcement officers who would buy a book like this have considerable legal sophistication). In any event, the book is more in the nature of a field guide rather than a treatise, that is, something that one would regularly consult rather than read cover to cover. In that respect, readers will find the 120-page index helpful.

It is a theme of the trialdex Web site, explained here, that federal pattern jury instructions are extraordinarily valuable and authoritative, and, consistent with that view, I began my research for each crime by consulting every official instruction and annotation. This was easy to do, using the trialdex federal jury instruction index. This provided as many as eight treatments of the same statute, and ensured that I was not going to miss an important issue.

In each case, I followed up by looking for pertinent articles published in the Department of Justice Journal of Federal Law and Practice (before 2018, the United States Attorneys' Bulletin). These are detailed practice guides written by federal attorneys with extensive experience or supervisory authority over the subject matter. I also checked for Reports by the Congressional Research Service ("CRS Reports"). I did conventional research as well, but the pattern instructions were my most valuable resources.

Put another way, making an assertion, and footnoting it with a citation to an official pattern instruction, is, I think, more compelling and useful authority than the more conventional approach of supporting the assertion with a string of case citations. This is particularly true for a survey of federal criminal statutes. It also has the added benefit of helping attain a manageable page count.

The crimes are placed in the order that they appear in the United States Code. The preferred approach was to start with the crime's name and statute number, followed by an excerpt of the pertinent text of the statute and an elements list, and ending with an annotation. This approach could not be strictly followed for each crime; often legal principles would apply to a range of statutes, and I did not want to repeat the same text over and over again. So some discussions were moved to the beginning of the book, and in some cases the annotations were grouped before or after the individual crimes. I hope that the rationale for each individual decision regarding the placement of an annotation will make sense to the reader.

By self-publishing, I have kept the price of the book ($24.99 for the paperback, $9.99 for the Kindle version) way below what's normal for a legal text. By way of example, I have another book in print with a major legal textbook publisher that lists at $1300. On that book, I have the advantage of professional marketing. On this book, all I have is word of mouth. So I hope, if you have a good experience with the book, that you will pass along a good word to friends who may be interested, and take a couple of minutes to post an honest review on Amazon.

(05/08/20) (permalink)

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