Respectable Law

When federal and state prosecutors twist the law to ignore the lack of criminal intent, they create confusion and disrespect for the law. Laws that protect us from injustice are being gutted by ignorant do-gooders.

The letter below was published in the Gwinnett Daily Post on July 18, 2003.

It is hard to respect laws that are inconsistent, arbitrary, and subject to change based on political correctness. Consider mens rea, the principle of law that says a crime must also include intent to do harm. This is a cornerstone principle from English law with an ancestry that goes back to the Magna Carta. Recent Gwinnett Daily Post articles informed us about two different sets of traffic fatalities that touch on mens rea.

The first fatality involved a civil suit brought against the Winder police department by the parents of a 14 year old girl who had taken her parent’s car for a joyride. Unfortunately the child lost control of her car during the chase and died. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that there was no “intent to cause harm” by the Winder police and that they could not be held liable for the child’s death.

The second case involves two Norcross parents who are facing criminal charges for allowing their teenage daughter to drive their car during an episode of street racing where two people lost their lives. The daughter has been charged with vehicular homicide and faces 36 years in prison. The Gwinnett Daily Post article pointed out the ground breaking potential of criminal charges against the parents. Mens rea is the ground being broken.

Just like the first example involving the Winder police department; a civil suit may be appropriate against the parents, but bending and twisting the law to satisfy local political correctness is wrong. Nationally, mens rea has been under assault for years by federal and state prosecutors. Examples are the prosecution of Michael Milliken (junk bonds), the wreck of the Exxon Valdese, and now obstruction of justice by Martha Stewart. It is hard for me to accept that these acts were perpetuated with criminal intent. Civil law suits maybe, but not criminal intent.