This is a purely educational website. Nothing here is legal advice or creates or implies an attorney-client relationship. If you have a specific legal issue, PLEASE talk to a lawyer who practices where you live—laws vary from place to place, and how they're applied varies from courthouse to courthouse. Your local county bar association can probably refer someone.
By using this site, you agree that you are awesome. Use of this site also constitutes acceptance of its Terms of Service and Privacy Policies
, which are known to medical science as a cure for insomnia.
It's best to keep all discussions in the comments. But if you really need to reach Nathan privately, go ahead and email him at email@example.com. He won't mind.
THE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO LAW and the PEEKING JUSTICE logo are pretty damn cool trademarks and should probably be registered one of these days.
© Nathaniel Burney. All rights reserved, though they really open up once you get to know them.
You can read this entire chapter in its original single-page scroll on the comic’s old Tumblr site here: (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three).
And that’s the last chapter that appeared there. They were getting too long and unwieldy to post as single pages, which is why I started this site.
So when it comes to laws that prohibit certain weapons or weapon parts or drugs, would those be strict liability laws since no one but the user/owner suffers any harm?
“Strict Liability” means there’s no mens rea requirement, not whether the actus reus has consequences.
So the existence of a victim, or even a probable victim, is irrelevant to the three point scale illustrated. Got it. is there a legal term for laws that have and do not have victims?
There isn’t really a legal term for that. People use the phrase “victimless crime,” but that has more of a political than legal sense to it — the phrase is usually seen as part of an argument that something shouldn’t be a crime, or shouldn’t be punished as severely. Of course there are others who would reply that such crimes do have a victim, even if it is only as general as society itself.
Most offenses you’ll hear referred to as “victimless” are the ones that used to be called “vice” — prostitution, gambling, drugs and the like. The usual argument is that everyone involved is consenting, or is only harming themselves, and so there’s no victim. The counter-argument is usually that their external social costs go beyond the individuals involved, including not only economic costs but also harm to the community’s character and social fabric. But again, these debates are more political than legal.
Remember, nothing in the definition of “crime” says there has to be an identifiable victim. Crime is just stuff that society deems to be so bad (harmful or repugnant) that the State is justified in imposing punishment.
Well that certainly complicates reform. It sounds like passing a Constitutional Amendment that voids any strict liability law or law not passed by an elected official may improve things and be like tossing a bulldozer through a china shop, but wouldn’t fix everything.
Wasn’t the whole point of criminal law to provide victims with an alternative to bloody vengeance and feuding? How is that purpose served by the state hijacking the process to punish actions that they consider “bad”.
Also, on a philosophical rather than historical level, how you can possibly justify punishing someone for an act without showing the act harms anyone?
Every crime causes harm or potentially causes harm to someone, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or financial. Regulations are meant to enforce safe behavior; for example, someone who does unregistered or unlicensed work hasn’t proven that they have the qualifications to perform a job safely. Vice laws are meant to protect the families, friends, or other dependents of those engaged in illicit behavior, and/or to inhibit the commission of other crimes in support of those vices.
The connection between a crime and the harm it causes can be weak or difficult to understand, but every crime was put on the books with the intention of preventing harm, however mistaken it might have been.
As an example, consider drunk driving.
Drunk driving does not, in itself, harm anyone (not even the driver). It’s completely harmless (until you actually cause an accident, of course).
But society has decided that drunk driving is so reckless that we want to punish it even in instances where no actual harm occurred, just to deter people from doing it in general. Sure, you didn’t cause harm this time, but on average it results in a significant amount of harm.
You could argue that we should only punish drunk drivers who actually cause a crash. But I don’t think you’d convince very many people. (After all, even operating a car sober is so dangerous that society requires that you get licensed first.)
You could make a case for putting it on insurance companies, and simply making liability insurance mandatory (which it already is in many locations). I don’t know why they don’t just do that for self-driving cars. If you can’t get an insurance company to cover you, you don’t drive. I’m sure driving-without-insurance can be given a punishment proportional to your previous moving violations.
“It’ll be FUN!”
God I hope so. So much doom and gloom in the last few parts.
“I hope you never need to use any of this.”
Except for the entertainment or education of others, or for school.