Friday, June 24, 2011

Mo' on Crime

Crimes - acts which society has decided you can't do and can punish you for if you decide to do them - are really "law violations." Society makes up laws against things they don't want you to do, codifies the act, and stipulates the penalty. "Society" meaning you and your neighbors at a town hall meeting, or, much more frequently, your elected representatives, such as your city council, county commission, state legislature, or, sometimes, even the federal legislature. Oh, we have no shortage of criminal-type laws, and violating ANY of them can get you punished. Theoretically.

Does it matter if you personally don't agree with a law? If you think a law is foolish? If you think no one is harmed by a particular act? Not really - not unless you can convince a lot of your fellow citizens to think as you think and modify or abolish the law you don't like.

Because all laws are thought up and defined by some level of society, all violations of laws (called "crimes") are committed against society as a whole ("the people" or "the state") and not against individual persons. If you kill someone (and if it is against the law to kill someone in your state) you may be sure that your criminal charges will read, "State of Ohio vs. John Doe" and not "Dead Person vs John Doe." We speak in this post of criminal law and not civil law.

The state - the society which has been offended by your actions - is represented by a State's Attorney or District Attorney or County Prosecutor, or whatever you call him or her in your location. This person represents "The People" and it doesn't really matter if the offended party wants to press charges or not. At least not in theory. The person who was raped or beat up or robbed can be subpoenaed, as a hostile witness if necessary. Why? Because it isn't about a woman who gets beat up by her drunk husband who doesn't want to press charges against him. It is about the people at large not wanting to allow people to beat up other people in their society.

The reality, of course, is very different. There is precious little actual "justice" meted out in any state in the U.S.A. The District Attorney (acting in the name of "The People") will likely drop charges if the woman won't testify willingly. There are 100 other cases to be dealt with, so if she chooses to get beat up time after time, what are we to do? Move on to the next one.

Please resist the temptation to drift off onto the side road of why battered women stay with and defend their abusers. That would be the subject for a much different post.

Trials are expensive. As a result, the District Attorney and his minions spend most of their time "plea bargaining" and insulting justice in the process. Nothing else to be done unless we want to construct a hundred times as many courtrooms and prison cells. At least bad people sometimes spend SOME time in jail when they plea bargain. That's the DA's rationale for plea bargaining. Remember that a criminal is unlikely to face any serious prison time until he has had 87 chances to rehabilitate himself and has already hurt or robbed many people. And remember if a criminal is sentenced to 10 years in prison, he may serve 18 months or so in actuality.

Laws change. It was probably once against the law to throw rotten eggs at politicians in Wisconsin. I don't know. It was once against the law to kill unborn babies in all states. Fancy that. Here's an odd one: I read an article in my local paper just yesterday that this guy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing an unborn baby by beating up his wife and kicking her in the stomach while wearing heavy boots. It took a few years to get him tried. I was irate about him getting only 10 years, Palin law-and-order zombie that I am. Then I thought, if the guy had been a doctor, it would have been ok. Depends on what the woman wants at the time, you know.

Don't go down the side road of doctors not using the boots and kicking method of abortion. Just don't. Thank you.

Marijuana? Public nudity? Prostitution? Apparently enough of your neighbors still don't want to live in that kind of society. So you need to work to get those laws abolished if you don't like them. I have read that in the Netherlands, even the hardest drugs are legal and the vilest chilepronergerphy is A-ok with the Dutch. Not so in West Texas. Maybe not so in Amsterdam, either. Like I said, I just read it somewhere.

All laws are enacted by society.

All crimes are defined by society.

All crimes when committed are (therefore) committed against society.

All crimes that are prosecuted are prosecuted in the name of the people of that society.

All people who are punished for committing crimes are punished in the name of society.

There are no victimless crimes. There are only laws broken and laws unbroken. If you don't agree that something should be against the law, well, that's too bad, isn't it? You can live by your own standards when you live alone on the planet, I guess. Otherwise, work for change. Society, in some way, is always the victim. At least until that society decides it doesn't want that law anymore. Go figure.

A tiny bit (the abortion part) of this is just my opinion. The rest is just cold hard facts of life.

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