Monday, September 28, 2009

Criminal, but No Intent?


Mr. Silverglate, a liberal who wrote a previous book taking the conservative position against political correctness on campuses, is a persistent, principled critic of overbroad statutes. This is a common problem in securities laws, which Congress leaves intentionally vague, encouraging regulators and prosecutors to try people even when the law is unclear.

...These miscarriages are avoidable. Under the English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent. This protection is disappearing in the U.S. As Mr. Silverglate writes, "Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations," even as "Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood." Prosecutors identify defendants to go after instead of finding a law that was broken and figuring out who did it. Expect more such prosecutions as Washington adds regulations.

Perfectly illustrated by the post below. When you think "regulatory crimes" think DNR and you'll have the concept.

The only problem: Silverglate estimates that every American "perpetrates" three crimes every DAY, under the regulatory regimes.

Next up:

...An "anti-cyberbullying" proposal is making its way through Congress, prompted by the tragic case of a 13-year-old girl driven to suicide by the mother of a neighbor posing as a teenage boy and posting abusive messages on MySpace. The law would prohibit using the Internet to "coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person." Imagine a law that tried to apply this control of speech to letters, editorials or lobbying.

Mr. Silverglate, who will testify against the bill later this week, tells me he figures that "being emotionally distressed is just part of living in a free society

The Right to Feel Good Law. Gadzooks.

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