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This trend must be reversed. Distinctions must be made between innocent mistakes and deliberate crimes. Ambitious prosecutors must be prevented from using the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of criminal offenses contained in federal and state statutes to ruin the lives of ordinary Americans. Otherwise, what happened to Mr. Schoenwetter might well happen to any of us someday.

The onetime head of the dreaded Soviet secret police, Lavrentiy Beria, once boasted, “Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.” We can’t allow such a mindset to transform a once-great criminal-justice system.

Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation (