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Author Topic: Civil Disobedience Fines
WmLambert
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A person is told by authorities that it is ill-advised to go ice-fishing on the Detroit River or Lake Sinclair because the ice is either too thin or otherwise too dangerous for fishing. The feeble-minded iconoclasts go out on the ice anyway. The inevitable crack appears, sinking their SUVs, and sending them downstream on a rapidly disintegrating ice floe. The Coast Guard is called out to rescue them and after heroic efforts, bring them back to dry land whereupon thay are given a bill for the rescue services. This is current law.

In New York, a handful of protesters decide to protest the war in Iraq by laying in the street to block traffic. A young woman with a difficult pregnancy is kept from reaching the hospital by the protest, and she and her baby die. Gangs run wild in Central Park, emboldened by the fact that the on-duty police have their hands full with the protestors and traffic snarl. Two dozen female joggers, usually well-protected by police, are raped and beaten. Commerce grinds to a halt and some small businesses are pushed over the edge into bankruptcy by vandalism and lack of customers. A reporter asks the protesters if they are cognizant of the problems to the city that their protest has caused. The protesters reject any responsibility, pointing to their freedom of expression. The reporter asks the protesters if they acquired a permit before their action. The protesters again reject the need to stay within the law because they were merely using tactics of "Civil Disobedience" to earn publicity and to make their point.

College basketball fans, fired up in a frenzy of over-exuberance as their team makes it past the first few rounds of the NCAA tournament, take to the street, setting fires and breaking windows. Eight are identified and arrested. The school expells them for at least one complete term, but the city insists they be jailed.

A militant ecological group chain themselves to trees that are marked for clearing. The same group throws paint onto passerbys wearing fur, as well as a good number wearing fake fur. Another group bombs a research station based on a rumor that this facility was working on genetically altering plants. The rumor was false, and the facility was only using basic normal multi- generational biology to yield better crops and be more draught-resistant for use in third-world impoverished areas. The bombing destroyed over a million dollars of property and made over a dozen endangered species being carefully nurtured for resestablishment back into viability become extinct instead.

Many Civil Rights protestors from the late 60's preach that without civil disobedience that impacted the cost of government, there would have been no reaction to the protests. Rosa Parks, on the other hand, did not damage any property or incrue any costs for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.

Query: There are unintended consequences in many actions people perform for what they believe to be the best of reasons. Should transgression of civil order that injures others make such protesters liable for the cost of regaining civil order? Should the cost of fire, police, paramedics, and other emergency services be tallied and billed to the protestors of record? Should such protesters be incarcerated for violating others' rights?


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msquared
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Sure,

Didn't King spend time in jail for his disobedience? Part of the process is taking the punishment.
msquared


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Everard
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Exactly.

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TomDavidson
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It's worth noting, though, that the protesters in one of the above examples should be punished for causing a traffic snarl (presumably without a permit to march), but NOT for the mugging of two women.

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maniacal_engineer
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just like I dislike the idea of hatecrimes (it even sounds like 1984) in which crimes carry more weight because of speech, I also dislike a light sentence for civil disobedience. you are breaking the law, you need to pay the (legitimate) consequences so if you dont want to get busted for something serious, dont tie up traffic. its like the witch trial in the alvin books. you can't just have chaos.
If someone blocks traffic inciting a race riot they should face the same penalty as someone who blocks traffic and incites a 'peace' riot.
if the king had found nephi he should rightly have been executed, because as far as the law was concerned he WAS guilty of murder.

[This message has been edited by maniacal_engineer (edited April 03, 2003).]


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WmLambert
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...But should they be required to pay the cost of policing their protests?
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maniacal_engineer
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yes, if 1) they dont get a permit or 2) they do somethng enmasse that would also be illegal '
en solo'

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TomDavidson
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It's worth noting that causing a traffic disruption is NOT inciting a riot, even if the police are redirected away and -- in the bizarre, hellish, pressure-cooker hypothetical city of Lambert's example -- citizens immediately seize on their absence to embark on a wave of crime.

That's like saying that if I shoplifted something, and a squad car had to take me away, I'd be legally liable for a domestic murder on the next block that went unprevented because a squad car didn't get there in time. Liability doesn't work that way -- and it's a good thing it doesn't, as you could legitimately argue that calling out extra security to defend the president when he visits is somehow encouraging crime elsewhere in the city.


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Zyne
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I'd like to hold someone liable for unnecessary traffic. Like every idiot who causes a highway wreck.

If the Powers could catch the ALF/ELF types, I've no doubt they'd be treated as terrorists.

Another example:
Anti-war protestors circle an abortion clinic. Some protestors take pictures of the women going into the clinic and publish them over the web...

A 15 year old pregnant woman of abusive and anti-abortion parents has her picture taken as she enters the clinic. It's published. Her 'rents beat her no end, label her a baby killer and throw her out of their home.

A 15 year old pregnant woman runs away in fear of the protestors. She drops out of school, has the baby, but cannot provide for food or basic care for it.
I think that billing protestors, civil disobedients, etc. would be unworkable and unfair. Jail and criminal fines, perhaps, if the person refuses to stop a crime with a victim after a request to do so.


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msquared
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15 year old child gives baby up for adoption. Finishes school, goes to college, has a wonderful life. Baby brings much happiness to a couple that could provide for it but could not have a child on their own.

msquared


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WmLambert
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TomD said:
quote:
That's like saying that if I shoplifted something, and a squad car had to take me away, I'd be legally liable for a domestic murder on the next block that went unprevented because a squad car didn't get there in time. Liability doesn't work that way
No - that is not a very tight example. A better one might be if Tom shoiplifted something and broke a display case as he tried to make his getaway. The responsibility for the specific action of breaking the display case caused by his actions would be billable - not some amorphous might-have-been crimes down the block that he may be morally responsible for but which can't be proven.

Don't ignore the laws currently in effect that require stranded ice fishermen to repay the cost of their rescue. We're not saying that they planned to be stranded, nor that saving them is not an honorable thing - but their decision to ignore the instructions of the Coast Guard to stay off the ice does have its own consequence. The law is well known to the ice-fisherfolk. They know that it costs a small fortune to get the hovercrafts out and the rescuers are more often injured than the rescuees.

Zyne's examples from the abortion clinic is similarly amorphous. If the protestors throw star nails out on the street in front of the abortion clinic, and the abortion staff needs to buy new tires for their cars, then the protestors who threw the nails into the street should foot the bill for new tires. To add pain and suffering on top of that resides more in the Johhny Cochrane camp than anything I've proposed. However - if a cost is directly traceable to an illegal action, then that person is morally and legally responsible for that cost. For instance - a protester kills an abortion doctor, then that protester's life is forfeit. Zyne's examples may point to a protester perhaps bearing the moral responsibility for the changes in a vulnerable person's life due to conscious attempts to bring those changes about, but there is no entry in any lawbook that stops a person from rising above such confrontation. It is the abortion protesters who offers up their own homes for fostering or adoption who have my respect - not the ones who want to get their names in the paper for publicity.

My earlier hypothetical what-ifs were just that... ideas to jog the mental process. ...What is allowed under the guise of protest and what goes over the edge?

The eco-activist who throws paint on a fur coat is equally responsible for the cost of a new coat. This raises the ante. The eco-activist is now required to actually buy a fur coat for the enemy! Now if there is true philosophy behind the paint-slinging, the felon cannot in good conscience allow that purchase, and since the fur coat is more than $1,000, the activist must be willing to pay the felonious penalty of his protest action.

The wiser action would be to get that soapbox, put it in the park, stand alone on it, and preach to the mob. If the message has legs, it will work. If no one agrees with the protester, then he/she has the ability to ratchet the protest up a notch and start violating others' rights to get their attention. However, such a violation necessitates that one be willing to pay one's responsibilities. Break the law - pay the fine.

A protester who lies in the street, stopping traffic is violating the law. Like MLK, he/she may pay for the protest by spending time in jail. If a single police officer is called into work on a day off in response to that action, and if that call-up is verifiable, then the protester should foot the bill. if a businessman can prove that he was impacted negatively by the protest, then that protester must be morally responsible to make it right. If it was a timed bid (for instance) on a construction project, and the busiinessman can prove his bid would have been accepted if on time, then he has a legal claim of possible damages. Again - the damages would need to be objective and provable - not subjective suppositions about what might have been.

I think the basic premiss is flawless. A person is responsible for his actions. If the actions are knowingly unlawful, and causes harm - then that person must be ready to pay the piper.


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TomDavidson
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"No - that is not a very tight example."

Except that it IS, because it directly addresses the weakness in your rhetoric (which, in your last post, you basically admitted): that establishing PROVABLE harm is next to impossible in these cases.

Can you PROVE that my shoplifting resulted in someone else's death, to the satisfaction demanded of a court when considering an accessory to murder? Can you prove that my delay of service at a restaurant lost a businessman his account?

It's the old "for the want of a nail" argument -- and you simply CAN'T take it more than one or two steps back before the indirect harm becomes too nebulous to confirm.

Heck, we don't even bill thieves, murderers, and rapists for the time spent apprehending them.


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WmLambert
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TomD, take the time to actually read a post before you comment derisively about it. You shoplifted. You broke the display case. You pay for it. The guy down the block had nothing to do with the display case. You may have a moral responsibility for something that happened down that block - especially if you caused it - but if it is not legally attributable to your illegal act, then you won't have to take out a loan to pay for it. If you were a real man you would... but there is no law to compel you. Your neighbors, of course, will have to eventually foot whatever bill comes due even though they had no say-so in the matter.

However - if you were down the street on an ice floe - you would pay for the rescue effort to save you.


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Zyne
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Lambert: Does your argument greatly rest on the notion of illegality, as contrasted with immorality?

A real question: Your first post seemed to have more to do with morality, yet later you seem to be relying on what is legal and what is not. Unless, you think a raped woman is a damaged woman, and I don't think you're saying that at all. Please explain.


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TomDavidson
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Lambert, in your first post, you made the argument that protesters who distracted the police could be considered responsible for the rape and beating of a woman who was attacked by someone encouraged by the absence of police. This is FAR closer to my analogy than to your display case one.

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Baldar
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If you needlessly draw police away from some other duty, you are partially responsible (and given lawyering deep pocket issues, you may indeed be fully responsible). However by paying for the police service you allow the police to hire additional help, thus alleviating yourself of that responsibility. Now if we could only put a price on ruining a persons day by holding up traffic.
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Chiu Chun-Ling
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I have to agree with TomD on this one.

The crime itself should carry specific fines and penalties, rather than being dependent on "damages" arising from the action. Damages are a separate issue that should be handled in a civil suit, where a judge can decide the merits of individual cases.

A woman that is raped doesn't have the right to ask for criminal charges against someone that accidentally allowed her rapists access to her, but she does have a right to seek civil damages. Of course, generally it is more popular to sue the police department in cases like this, but such is life. You have to deal with real people, after all. If you could rely on people to do the right thing in any given situation, there wouldn't be a rapist in the first place.

I think that for a protest that deliberately stops traffic or does some other form of intentional damage as an intentional effect of the protest, you should add in criminal conspiracy charges. But the damages have to come by civil charges, not as part of the criminal charges. We all know that prosecuters are more likely to go after you for criminal acts that cause a lot of damage--such is inevitable--but the punishment in a criminal case has to be for the crime itself, not for the damages.


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AnotherSeeker
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I think, Chiu, that some states might be changing the possibility of penalizing citizens not taking action to stop a crime. Washington State has at least approached in legislature holding common citizens accountable for ignoring a crime in progress.

I'll check on this tomorrow at work.


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MooseGirl
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In a *working* democracy, there's always a legal way to make your voice known and sharing your views. If anything else fails, you always can become a politician (or the head of a big company ).

Where civil disobedience is the *only* possibility is when the democracy is a mock one (like in the GDR - former German Democratic Repuplic) and you'd be breaking the laws if you wanted to run a demonstration because your country's law forbids demonstrations.

I realize that this is a very simplistic view.

MooseGirl


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WmLambert
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TomD said:
quote:
Lambert, in your first post, you made the argument that protesters who distracted the police could be considered responsible for the rape and beating of a woman who was attacked by someone encouraged by the absence of police. This is FAR closer to my analogy than to your display case one.

No, Tom - you are either not reading the post or purposefully trying disinformation. I listed a whole bunch of actions - things that may or may not cause later reactions to occur. I never argued anything. I laid out some hypothetical circumstances and then asked the questions:

quote:
Should transgression of civil order that injures others make such protesters liable for the cost of regaining civil order? Should the cost of fire, police, paramedics, and other emergency services be tallied and billed to the protestors of record? Should such protesters be incarcerated for violating others' rights?
If you notice, all of these things are objective results legally proven to be caused by protesters. I never said a single word about assuming anything - or insinuating protesters should be held responsible for unproven events. Of course they very easily could be morally responsible for such happenings, and I'm sure there are many true-life examples of such events where a connection WAS proven and court cases ensued.

In the Detroit Free Press/News Strike in the mid-90's UAW thugs were imported from New Jersey as experts at confrontational demonstrations. They threw star nails onto both Mound Road and Metropolitan Parkway, causing thousands of dollars of damage to passerbys with no stake in the matter. The Sterling Heights police were called up for massive overtime hours policing the strike, and other police departments from nearby cities were brought in for additional support. The cost was enormous - and the bills were paid by the city - and whenever legal proof could be generated - also billed to the thugs, themselves, or the Union who was responsible for them.

In another venue, Freedom Hill, a Sterling Heights 100 acre park owned by Hillside Productions, a concert company and overseen as a county park has been at odds with the city for years. Macomb County has used the park for fireworks displays and many other events. Locals have complained about noise - and when the city found the park not in compliance with their noise abatement laws - one of the tactics the City used was to bill the park the cost of law enforcement needed to control the crowds and traffic.

Both of these events in my city made me aware of the fairly new approach to lawlessness of billing the criminals for all costs associated with their crime. Everyone here has heard of the new laws allowing police to confiscate the cars and property of those arrested in drug busts. These seizures are at the very edge of legality. My questions were meant to focus on the trend of using these new laws to deal with protesters. Is it right? Where are the limits?

[This message has been edited by WmLambert (edited April 04, 2003).]


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Chiu Chun-Ling
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I think that a city or other local government can legally sue for civil damages, but they should not be allowed to use the criminal process to collect damages.
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MooseGirl
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Criminal lawsuits have to be filled by the victims. Meaning, if they throw down nails, and get caught, and my car crashes because of those nails, I can sue them.
It would be interesting to see how many of those "protestors", who consider themselves matyres of sorts when they cause damage would be faced with, say 30+ lawsuits from each of their victims who have nothing to do with them. I'd like to see how they are still grinning into the faces of the people whose lives they ruined.

MooseGirl


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TomDavidson
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William, I'm a little confused. The one example you posited that I was nitpicking -- that protesters who required increased police presence could be considered responsible for rape of and by third parties -- is one that you do NOT believe? If so, why did you argue with me?

I'm pointing out that it's not only a ridiculous position, but a legally untenable precedent. Do you disagree? If not, why not just post "you know, Tom's right" and move on?


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The Pixiest
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One is then forced to ask, Why is blocking traffic *already* a crime?

You can get fined for it just as you can get fined for speeding.

These protesters should get a Blocking Traffic ticket.

We don't need any new laws, we just have to enforce the ones we have.

Pix

[This message has been edited by The Pixiest (edited April 05, 2003).]


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WmLambert
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Pixiest, there is blocking traffic, and then there is blocking traffic. Most demonstrators will get a permit to march down a street and are protected by the police as they exercise their freedom of speech. However if a group defies the permit process and marches down a street then they certainly are violating laws. You are right that enforcing whatever ordinance they are violating is right and proper. They would probably receive tickets and receive a fine. However, if they also break windows as they march - not only do they get ticketed for illegal parade, but arrested for vandalism. Probably the court will enforce a greater fine for this - but more importantly - will demand restitution for the property damage. If the Police, Fire, Emergency medical, or any other groups submit bills to the court at this time, they may be included amongst the victims for restitution.

Many jurisdictions are streamlining laws to make it easier to impose such restitution. The seizure of cars used during crimes, for instance, is done on the spot, before the court decides anything.

As for TomD, you are again being dishonest. You keep acting like I argued against you in favor of these laws or that I made examples to prove a point. Personally, I am against the new legislation that permits police to seize the only car of a young woman who loaned its use to a boyfriend who conducted illegal business from it without her knowledge or permission. Similar laws may confiscate large amounts of money being held by a person who is swept up into police custody. I've seen several stories of people on the way to make a deposit on a house, or other really large purchase using cash - and their money is seized, and they have tpo prove it isn't illegal drug money before thay can get it back. Some have fought for years to get seized money back.


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Enumclaw
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quote:
There are unintended consequences in many actions people perform for what they believe to be the best of reasons.

This is the key phrase. The consequences are UNINTENDED.

I believe we cannot hold people responsible, in these instances, for things that they didn't intend to have happen.

It's silly, to me, to blame a protestor for a rape if the rapist was doing it because he knew the cops were busy working on a protest.

There's a couple of reasons. First of all, to hold the protestor responsible would utterly reject the notion of holding people responsible for their OWN actions. In this case, we'd be giving the rapist a skate; part of the responsibility for HIS actions would be diverted to the protestor.

Secondly, it also ignores real life. We do not hold cops responsible for the actions of criminals. If someone mugs me, I don't get to sue the cops because they weren't right there to stop the crime; for the cops to be able to stop such a crime, there'd have to be so many cops that our society wouldn't function.


quote:
Should transgression of civil order that injures others make such protesters liable for the cost of regaining civil order?

Not (usually) in a criminal sense. If someone decides to have a protest and it turns into a riot, and it can be shown that the protest organizers A) knew it would turn into a riot and B) encouraged it to turn into a riot, then obviously you have a cause for a criminal action; they were inciting riot.

If they knew it would turn into a riot but didn't do anything to stop or start it, then you probably have cause for a civil action based on recklessness or negligence, but probably not any cause for a criminal charge.


quote:
Should the cost of fire, police, paramedics, and other emergency services be tallied and billed to the protestors of record?

Probably not. As already pointed out, we don't bill "regular" criminals for the services that they ring up. Here in the Seattle area, the cops have arrested the guy they think is involved in the Green River Killer murders; but they're only charging him with murder.

They're not also billing him for the hundreds of thousands of hours of investigation on the case. The public (rightfully) expects that to be part of the cost of having cops and detectives.

To say that protestors should be billed for these services seems to me to be an added charge on them, intended to get people to stop protesting. Now we're moving in a direction that, to me, seems dangerously close to making people pay for their beliefs.

They're already subject to breaking the law and the criminal charges for such an action; that's rightful, and those protesting (if they have honor) will be able to live with doing that.

In a way, it's their "right" to break the law, and they will pay the consequences. While I might be disgusted with someone who protests something, I always have admiration for those who plead guilty to the crime they're charged for if they did it.

The ones who try to plead innocent really piss me off. If you know you're breaking the law, even for a Really Important Cause, you should have the stones to admit it when you're called onto the carpet for it.


quote:
Should such protesters be incarcerated for violating others' rights?

We should and do have laws intended to prevent and punish people for their actions.

We should and do have varying levels of punishment based on people's motivations in crimes (if you kill someone but it's an accident, it's manslaughter; if you meant to, it's murder).

But when you start dealing with protests, you are treading on dangerous ground.

What if a pro-life activist in a very conservative city is charged with blocking the street in front of an abortion clinic? Odds are that a politically motivated DA and a jury won't hammer them as hard for that crime as they would hammer, say, a pro-choice group blocking the traffic in front of the City Council chambers.

Or what if anti-war protestors in Seattle, a relatively liberal city, are treated much more differently (say just given a citation for $49) for having an illegal protest that blocks traffic, but an anti-war protest in San Diego (heavy military presence, more conservative community) results in a felony charge and a month in jail?

Would that be fair? Probably not.

What we need to do is have simple, widespread, and fair laws that prohibit and punish protests from unfairly infringing on the rights of others.

To some extent, you can't have a large protest without messing up the rights of others to, say, drive down a certain street; but you can, through a permit process, try to balance one group's right to freedom of expression with another group's right to freedom of movement.

When any group usurps the process to express themselves, they should be willing to pay the price for THAT action. Holding them responsible for other people's actions, though, is silly.

Paul


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WmLambert
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Enumclaw posted:
quote:
"There are unintended consequences in many actions people perform for what they believe to be the best of reasons." This is the key phrase. The consequences are UNINTENDED.

I believe we cannot hold people responsible, in these instances, for things that they didn't intend to have happen.


Nope! If a person decides to break the law to do a thing, he accepts all the consequences - the ones he predicted, as well as the ones that he didn't. I think the common acknowledgement of that tenet of law is the colloquial expression that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." If a common man using common sense could foresee a thing to happen, then the perpetrator of the act should be held to no less high a standard. There is some logic in law that allows that robbery is no better than murder because a robber cannot be aware that the person he is mugging has a bad heart - or that the purse he just snatched has the medicine in it that will keep someone else alive. Since he can't know in advance the severity of the repercussions to his act - he must accept them all as his fault. If the little old lady keels over dead - the purse snatcher may be tried for murder.

If a person shoots a friend because he thought the gun was unloaded - he may plea for a reduced sentence - or that the shooting was purely accudental. But the prosecution may very well charge that person with murder anyway. It behooves the shooter to ask for forgiveness and to apologize because that more often influences the prosecutors to accept a plea bargain rather than any legal tactic that can be used.

I think it indicative of the correctness and applicability of some responses that the example of rape in Central park is used instead of the death of the mother and child in a blocked ambulance. One is easily used to deny responsibility - the other much less so. The procedure in court is the same: If the prosecution can prove a link, then the protester is responsible. I can think of several ways that could be done. The prosecutor could prove that the protester was at a public place speaking about the protest. In this speaking, maybe the protester admitted wanting to stir up as much unrest as possible. "We'll lay in the streets - stopping traffic and when they see all the fires and looting and crimes that they can't get to because of us - they'll have to stand up and take notice!" Admittedly - such a scenario is unlikely - but wouldn't the court be able to forge a link? Especially if the rapist claimed, "I only did it because the protester told me to!" The ambulance scenario is exactly the same. Legally it may be hard to prove a link - morally though, it's not so hard.

You also said:

quote:
As already pointed out, we don't bill "regular" criminals for the services that they ring up.
That is chamging. There are many cases on the books of criminals billed for the costs of their apprehension and incarceration. The reason I brought htis up is because a local radio program was discussing such new rules that are being proposed by both parties and by many legal reformers.

[This message has been edited by WmLambert (edited April 05, 2003).]


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Baldar
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My students stated they wanted to have a walk out during sixth period (as opposed to after school) to oppose the war. I told them that was fine and acceptable in a manner to exercize their understanding and displeasure. Surprisingly enough we were going to have a test on that day too. So I added I especially admired their willingness to sacrifice themselves and their grades for something they believed in.

I was asked to join them (as if helping manage a taco stand wasn't enough). I told them it would be fun but I had a test to present.

They realized that if they missed the test they would recieve a zero, hence they reassessed their priorities. Consequences that are known are more easily dealt with.

A felon that helps rob a bank by being a driver for the robber does not intend to kill anyone, however if the robber shoots someone, the driver is held equally responsible under the eyes of the law. It is an unintended consequence, but the law recognized contributing factors.


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Enumclaw
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Wm, you say...

quote:
Nope! If a person decides to break the law to do a thing, he accepts all the consequences - the ones he predicted, as well as the ones that he didn't. I think the common acknowledgement of that tenet of law is the colloquial expression that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

That tenet of the law is not what we're talking about here. That principle refers to when you are charged with something that you didn't know was a crime.

In other words, if there's a law against parking your car on a busy avenue, and you break it, you can't say "I didn't know that was a law" and get out of the consequences of that crime.

But there's a big difference between that, and holding someone responsible for something UNRELATED to their action that they didn't know would happen.

In other words, the "ignorance is no excuse" principle doesn't apply to, say, a protestor being held responsible for someone else getting raped.

You can't say "well, you should have known that someone else might choose that time to break the law".

That's not ignorance of the law- that's ignorance of someone else doing something. The law generally doesn't allow you to hold Person A responsible for Person B's criminal acts, especially if A didn't know B was going to do something wrong.


quote:
If a common man using common sense could foresee a thing to happen, then the perpetrator of the act should be held to no less high a standard. There is some logic in law that allows that robbery is no better than murder because a robber cannot be aware that the person he is mugging has a bad heart - or that the purse he just snatched has the medicine in it that will keep someone else alive. Since he can't know in advance the severity of the repercussions to his act - he must accept them all as his fault. If the little old lady keels over dead - the purse snatcher may be tried for murder.

No, he can't. To be tried/convicted of murder the criminal has to KNOW that his actions WILL result in someone's death. Example- you point a gun at someone, knowing it's loaded, and you shoot them. You mean to kill them.

To be tried/convicted of manslaughter, the criminal has to know that his actions MAY result in someone's death. Example- you're fooling around with a gun that you didn't think was loaded, but it was, and someone dies.

There's an important difference there. It is the difference in what you INTEND.

If you intend to steal a purse and the victim dies, you're not held "as responsible" as if you intend to kill someone and the victim dies.

Intent counts. The law recognizes a difference between meaning to steal a purse and someone dying, and meaning to KILL someone and them dying.

In any case, the law ALREADY provides for penalizing protestors. There are the criminal sections of the law, which we see used when someone breaks it; then there's civil actions.

So, in some of the examples... if a protest blocks the entrance to the only hospital in town that does childbirth, and a mother giving birth dies, then the protestors can be tried criminally for manslaughter and can be sued in civil court for damages.

However, those damages are going to be less if the death was due to negligence- the protestors didn't mean to put people at risk, or know that they were doing so, but did so anyway and should have known better.

If the death was due to recklessness- the protestors knew that they might be putting people at risk but did it anyway- then the damages can be higher.

Like I said, intent matters.

All this speculation does forget that if someone really wanted to, they could sue a protestor or group of protestors for their actions. Say a protest makes you late for work, and you miss out on some big deal. You can sue for that.

Odds are you're going to have a damn hard time winning anything, but if you have a good enough case you can do it.

Paul


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Chiu Chun-Ling
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That's right. There are two alternatives to "variable" criminal charges we have to look at here. One is permitting civil suits against irresponsibly destructive protestors. The other is criminal conspiracy charges against protest organizers who deliberately engineer havoc.

These should provide sufficient redress against illegal forms of protest that cause damage beyond the illegality of the protest itself.


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WmLambert
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Enumclaw, are you sure you're not trying to apply wishful thinking to your argument? Although we all agree that intent is used in law all the time to intensify or weaken how hard the prosecution may come down on you - are you sure that the prosecution doesn't have the full right to smack down a criminal because of the effects of his crime - even if the criminal didn't foresee so-called unintended consequences?

Remember, we are discussing the new trend that governments are using to write more specific laws that more easily allow this kind of thing. The argument they make is simple. It costs money to control the criminal element - why don't those responsible for the problem be billed for that cost? What do you say to that? ...That the criminals are morally responsible - but somehow not legally responsible? All it took to allow the seizure of automobiles of "Johns" in the red light district was a quick bill by City Council and a willing judge to support it.

You keep mentioning "intent" without mentioning the person being charged has violated laws and is already in the sentencing loop. How much leeway does a judge have? Doesn't that depend on the legislature that writes the laws that he enforces? Aren't there compulsory guidelines now?

If an arsonist kills somebody - regardless of whether he "knew" there was anyone in harm's way - he will be tried for murder - not just arson. Intent is only an aspect of the crime - not the compelling prerequisite that you're describing.

Law sometimes works in indirect ways. How was Al Capone brought down? Income Tax Evasion! He was thrown in prison for not declaring the illegal money he acquired from criminal acts. The acts weren't what got him - but his possession of the money from the acts were.

As far as I can tell - Michael Milken was thrown into prison for inintended crimes. As far as I can tell, he never even broke any laws - and all of the laws he was accused of violating didn't cost anyone any money. He pleaded guilty to six counts of technical violations of paperwork by the bureaucrats of the SEC, with the belief he would get community service as a penalty, not 10 years in federal prison, a fine of more than $1 billion, and more than 5000 hours of community service. He thought he would protect his family from bueaucratic hassling. To this day he is demonized for supposedly causing the Banking and Loan Scandal - but that was more a cause of new laws and regulations being written rather than anything that he did.

Intent is not the end-all and be-all in Law. As a matter of history, neither is guilt or innocence - it's sometimes just being at the wrong place at the wrong time.


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Enumclaw
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Wm, frankly, you're not making any new points that I can see. You're just picking apart other people's posts.

What, exactly, is it that you propose? You posed the original question, you're arguing with anyone who answers, but you're not really saying what YOU want to see.

What do you think is appropriate? That someone protesting by sitting in the middle of the street be charged with murder or rape if someone is killed or raped in another part of the city?

I'm getting tired of talking to your devil's advocate position. You posted your questions, you got some answers, either put up or shut up, please. Thanks.

Paul


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TomDavidson
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I'm inclined to agree, Lambert. You have said above that you DON'T necessarily agree with the examples you suggested above, and weren't arguing with me on their behalf; if that's the case, why not stop arguing? Everyone else here seems to believe that existing legislation and legal precedent is sufficient to cover the hypotheticals you've described; if you ALSO believe that, why continue?

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WmLambert
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Enumclaw and TomD: I guess you still don't read posts very well. You keep misstating what you think I said and ignored what I did say.

Let me say it again slowly...

The laws are changing. There is no status quo for you to rest on. You can't say you are willing to leave things the way they are, because they no longer are.

I, personally see the trend in billing prisoners for their incarceration, and criminals for the cost of their apprehension, and restitution for victims of crimes as understandable and easily rationalized. The alternative is for those who had no hand in the crime footing the entire bill for these costs, and only having fines levied to offset court costs as punishment - and not necessarily getting to the ones who lost it.

I also believe that so long as the crime has been proven in a court of law and the effects of the crime legally linked to the criminal then such bills are appropriate. Seizure of automobiles or other personal property unrelated to the crime except for proximity are not. I don't believe people should have money confiscated because they have a large amount of it on their person. The latest laws allow police to take it - considering it to be drug-related without proof - and force the person who had it taken away sue to get it back ...Guilty without benefit of trial.

[This message has been edited by WmLambert (edited April 08, 2003).]


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TomDavidson
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So, to clarify: you do NOT believe that protesters should be held responsible for the hypothetical rape of the women in your example?

Or do you?


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Chiu Chun-Ling
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He believes that they shouldn't be subject to criminal charges for it.

TomD, you are getting obsessed with "winning" the argument rather than engaging Wm's ideas (which is one of the intellectually dishonets behaviors that I call you out on from time to time).

For the record, I am disagreeing with Wm's point as I understand it (which I'm actually trying to do).

The protesters can be held responsible for messing up my horoscope, but in a civil proceeding, not a criminal one. I think that we should make it easier to get civil judgements out of people convicted of a criminal offense...if someone is convicted of blocking traffic, then I should be able to use that conviction against them in a civil proceeding to sue for losing my job (okay, not me, but a hypothetical person that might be damaged by the protestors blocking the road). This is not a matter of introducing prejudicial evidence like it would be in a criminal case--the established fact of the protesters having blocked the road is material evidence in this case, as would be a finding that police had to be pulled from the neighborhood where my shop was looted or my sister raped (or why not me, since in this case me and my do not mean me and mine?).

Anyway, I reiterate my support for a criminal law with penalties for criminal behavior alone, leaving damage judgements to the civil court.


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Everard
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That would actually fall under double jeopordy, I believe.
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LetterRip
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Ev,

what would fall under double jeopardy?

LetterRip


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TomDavidson
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"TomD, you are getting obsessed with 'winning' the argument rather than engaging Wm's ideas...."

Well, no. Specifically, I'm obsessed with understanding why Lambert has said my analogy was inappropriate (and why he says I've misunderstood his position.) Therefore, I'm asking him to clarify his position on the ONE SPECIFIC POINT I was interested in addressing in the first place.

If he was using a hypothetical example he didn't believe, why did he leap to its defense and produce an terrible and unequivalent analogy to do so? If he DOES believe it, what logic is he using to apply civil charges to a third party based on the existence of an indirectly related criminal case -- and does he realize the awful precedent this would create?

-----

Edit: On the matter of the "larger" issue, the whole idea of using civil charges -- which adhere to a much lower standard -- to bypass the actual rule of law is one that bothers me enormously. (The civil suit against O.J. Simpson, for example, was something that I found very disturbing.)

Distracting a police officer should NOT be a crime, unless the distraction itself was an illegal act -- and if the distraction IS of an illegal nature, there is clearly ALREADY a law on the books to address it.

I understand the logic: that protest, like a shipwreck, eats up valuable resources and time, and the protesters should be willing to pay for the cost of their action. However, I think sufficient law of this type ALREADY exists, and think there's too much room for abuse to start establishing broader forms of punishment.

[This message has been edited by TomDavidson (edited April 08, 2003).]


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WmLambert
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Hmmm... I mentioned ice fisherman being required to pay for their rescue, protesters blocking traffic and related effects from their actions (with no prejudgment either way), Sports fans rioting and being punished by the city as well as by their college, eco-terrorists and their very costly vandalism, and how civil-rights activists claim the need for civil disobedience outweighs the letter of the law. Then I posed a question, making no judgements. Exactly what do you wish me to explain, Tom? Should I make the hypothetical cases more specific?

Okay, let's assume that a protester was hired by a foreign government to organize and inflame a group of dissenters and to create a newsworthy spectacle that can be milked by his home country. There is no knowledge of the agenda of this provocateur by the other protesters - until it later is proved that the protest he organized was a part of a larger program of activism including inciting vandals to smash windows and loot businesses in the area. (In the 60's there were a number of undercover police and government agents doing this very thing.)

Now we can all agree that the agent provocateur is liable to the full extent of the law. (Although some may argue his protection under a security umbrella if it is our own government fomenting the action. A similar thing occurred with Andreas Strassmeier, a West German undercover agent on loan to the FBI who was whisked out of the country while Tim McVeigh took the whole responsibility for what happened in Oklahoma City.) We are less sure on how to handle the unwitting protesters who followed a now-proven criminal to do things that resulted in planned atrocities of one kind or another. I think there are several levels of culpability. If the equine protesters were pure dupes then they are pitiable, but not necessarily liable. However, if a few came into the protest with eyes wide open and bought into civil disobedience which crosses the line into illegal activity with full knowledge of the other planned crimes to help make their point, then those other crimes can be linked to them and they should be liable for costs, as a criminal and not civil proceeding. If the same group had no specific knowledge of planned crimes, but had a certain knowledge that such criminal events would necessarily follow from their actions, then they also may be liable. If they only suspected such occurences would happen, then it begins to get murky. Here, it would probably come down to what a reasonable man would understand to be the result of his actions.

Second scenario: No agitator - just a philisophical difference of opinion. The same issues are involved - but this time the impetus behind the protest is for "a greater good". The protester goes in again with his eyes wide open - realizing there may be a price to pay for crossing the crime line. Many such protesters are rounded up in Paddy wagons, and their overnight incarceration is a badge of courage to them. They are less pleased if costs of their apprehension is billed to them. I think this is where many have problems. They see the overnight stay in the hoosegow as sufficient payment for their civil disobedience, and additional bills as piling on. I see not billing responsible parties as shifting their burdens to others who are innocent of any deviousness.

In all cases, innocent parties are not responsible for any bills - only those who purposefully cross the line and do so willing to pay the piper.

Some legislatures are now arguing the need to put more prohibitive laws in the books - to make it easier to establish when a protester breaks the law and what penalties may ensue. A rapist who takes advantage of the actions of a protester is a criminal, and his crime may weigh morally at the hands of the demonstrator, but does not incriminate the protester directly in the rape. They are two different cases, linked by simple cause and effect, but not at all the same crime.

The pregnant mother who dies on the way to the hospital because the protester stopped her ambulance from getting her to the help that was available and waiting for her is more arguable - and may be a legitimate civil court function. It comes down to the speculation that a crime which causes ancillary actions makes the criminal also liable for the subsequent effects from his crime.

There is no other ratonalization for the new seizure laws. (A woman allows a friend to use her car to obstensibly go the store to buy formula for her baby. On the way, the friend propositions an undercover police officer and is arrested for soliciting sex. The woman's car is impounded under the new "John laws." Even though she had no knowledge of the perpetrator's illegal act, she is held responsible for violating the new law, and her car is gone. Some people have filed suit to regain such seized vehicles, only to find out the vehicle is no longer available for return, having been sold at auction the day before.) This law I have a lot of problem with, and is clearly unconstitutional. Even worse is the person with a big wad of money which is seized because drug dealers oftentimes have large sums on them. Without even the hint of a crime being performed, the money is seaized and the person who lost the money has to initiate the legal action to get it back. If it is used or spent before it can be returned, then the police who took it are not responsible for returning it. Just bad luck.

As for the protestor in general? I say illegal protesting is beyond the pale - and exposes the protesters to whatever cause and effect actions happen because of their considered choice to break the law to make a point. They choose to protest - then they also choose any unintended consequences that come along with it. There is ample legal protests available to a person - breaking a law to protest anything is wrong.


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