*cough* Patriot Act *cough*
SAFE? (Regardless of other arguments, the fact it made no exceptions for Police officers would seem that it should punish people who are not meant to be punished)
I would have to disagree that police officers shouldn’t be punished, or that they should have special priviledges under the law.
That said, reading some of the things in SAFE it seems like a horrible law to me. (and amusingly, 84% of counties in NY state apparently agree)
A couple recent Supreme Court cases really exemplify this. In 2014 there was Bond v. United States, where a woman harrassed her husband’s mistress by smearing itchy stuff on the mistress’s doorknob and car handles. She was prosecuted under, of all things, the law implementing the international chemical weapons treaty. The justices found this utterly absurd (one declaring the prosecution “unimaginable”). Six of them decided that the itchy stuff didn’t count as a chemical weapon the way it was used, and the other three would have declared the whole law unconstitutional (because federal law isn’t suppossed to punish minor local conduct like that).
Then this past year, there was Yates v. United States, in which a fisherman throwing undersized fish overboard was prosecuted under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was targeted towards major corporate crime in the wake of the Enron scandal. Again, it was written so insanely broadly that it swept up totally unrelated conduct. During oral argument, Justice Kennedy even suggested that the courts entirely abandon the pretense that prosecutorial discretion exists as a concept, given the absurdity of these (real!) cases. He and four others were so disgusted by this that they reversed the conviction by declaring fish to not be “tangible objects” for purposes of this law, because screw legislators who write criminal laws too broadly.
Ideally, that shouldn’t be “screw the legislature”, but rather, “let’s try to interpret the law to comport with the intent of the legislature that passed it” (a common rule of statutory construction).
But I would agree that the courts should abandon the notion that any possibility of overapplication can be remedied by prosecutorial discretion. The courts should think more like they did back in the days of private AGs, and treat any incoming prosecution as potentially frivolous until demonstrated otherwise.
Presumably it was throwing them overboard after being threatened with capture rather than because it’s the correct thing to do after catching undersized fish?
He threw them overboard because a federal agent showed up and gave him a citation for having fish that were 18.75 inches long, which was smaller than the 20-inch minimum. (A few years later, the limit was reduced to 18 inches). Afraid of getting his fishing license suspended, he threw the offending fish overboard (contrary to the agent’s instructions) so that the feds couldn’t prove him guilty later. They figured out what he did and arrested him.
Illegal? Definitely. Appropriate to prosecute under the anti-shredding provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley, which carry a potential 20-year sentence? Hell no.
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