Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unnecessary crime of the day: Hazing

Following up on my post about Judge Posner's musings on things that don't need to be crimes, here is a fresh example: hazing.

This will be a continuing series. 

Posner on Decriminalization

Judge Posner has a lengthy essay / book review in the New Republic, discussing the topic of crime and punishment and the fact that too many Americans are in prison. It is worth a read.

Like me, Judge Posner thinks there should be fewer crimes. Decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs is the low-hanging fruit, but Posner does not stop there:
There are also other candidates for decriminalization, such as prostitution and copyright infringement (which should be just a civil offense); and it is time that the age of consent were reduced to 16 or even 15, in recognition of contemporary sexual mores. Gambling should be decriminalized, and probably environmental offenses as well, such as killing a migratory bird; such offenses should be left to the civil law, with its financial sanctions.
I'm with him on prostitution, of course, but some of his other ideas strike me as a little strange—or at least trivial. How many people are wasting away in prison on a copyright rap? And would changing the age of consent from 16 to 15 make any difference whatsoever to prison populations?

I'm all for legalizing all forms of gambling, but again I wonder how many people actually go to jail on gambling offenses. When I was a law clerk, Judge Rosenbaum did preside over a money-laundering trial that came out of an FBI take down of a St. Paul bookie operation, so it's not fanciful. But the defendant who was convicted (one was acquitted) was sentenced to probation. My understanding is that most money laundering and gambling prosecutions are efforts to go after the more public manifestations of organized crime. So I guess if you made gambling legal it might have the side-benefit of making organized crime less profitable.

I guess I'd be okay with decriminalizing migratory bird murder, too, but it would be pretty far down the list as well.

What do you think, Mr. Gillette? Should the Man get out of the copyright-enforcement racket? Any other crimes you'd like to see taken off the books?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tattoos part deux

Last month, I posted about a gentleman accused of murder in Kansas had to bring a motion asking the court to allow him to cover up a tattoo on his neck that spelled "MURDER" (or "REDRUM" depending on how you were looking at it). At the time, I thought it was sort of a unique motion. I was wrong. This month brings a similar motion in an Indiana murder trial.

Friday, May 16, 2014

First thought is not always the best thought.

I belong to the generation of people that cannot point to World War II or the Great Depression as a thing that made my childhood rough. Instead, the thing I can point out to children as being rough about my childhood is that people only got 3 or 4 channels on their TV.* These were ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. If I recall correctly, the only baseball we could watch was the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon. Since it was often nice out when the game was airing, I did not watch it very much.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Punk in Drublic (apologies to NOFX)

The Arizona Republic has a story about a recent ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals that overturned a Scottsdale, Arizona ordinance that prohibited being drunk in public. The ruling is here. Why can't the city ban being drunk in public? Because it turns out that an Arizona state law prevents local governments (counties, municipalities, or "other" political subdivisions) from adopting or enforce any local law, ordinance or resolution includes "being a common drunkard or being found in an intoxicated condition" as one of the elements of a criminal offense. The state law has been on the books for over 40 years.