Archive for the 'Laws' CategoryPage 2 of 35

New Mexico Passes Civil Forfeiture Law

The law often uses strange jargon that ordinary people don’t understand, but will significantly harm people if they did comprehend the words’ meaning. Civil forfeiture is an excellent example.

Civil Forfeiture LawCivil forfeiture is far more insidious than its individual words might suggest. Civil forfeiture is a process where law enforcement can seize property – including cash, cars, or even houses – without a conviction or even an arrest.

Police can bring civil forfeiture suits directly against the property itself, with interesting case names like United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency or United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. That’s right; the property is on trial, not the property owners!

Most of the properties subject to civil forfeiture typically come from ordinary drivers. Suppose a man wants to move from New Mexico to California to start a business and has $20,000 in cash in the backseat. If the police pull this man over, they can confiscate the $20,000 if they suspect the cash will be used in a crime.

Civil forfeiture was originally created so that police could enforce drug laws without having to prove the drug kingpins were guilty. Like all legal doctrines, civil forfeiture has grown beyond its intended purpose. Today, civil forfeiture has become a pervasion of the Constitution, with property being seized until the innocent can prove they are not guilty.

The fact that police have been using the stolen money to buy alcohol and slush machines only underscores how corrupt civil forfeiture has become.

Reversing the Trend

A few states are taking measures to end abusive civil forfeiture. Two weeks ago, Governor Susana Martinez signed a bill that restricts civil forfeiture actions to convictions. In other words, the police can only seize property if the owner has been found guilty of a crime. North Carolina is the only other state that has passed legislation to curb civil forfeiture actions. In North Carolina, the police can only conduct civil forfeiture if in cooperation with the federal government.

New Mexico and North Carolina are moving in the right direction, but their laws still assume that allowing police to confiscate property is still a good idea. The best reason police would want to hold property from arrestees is that the property can be used as evidence against the defendant. If the owner has already been convicted though, then confiscating property after conviction defeats the purpose of holding property as evidence against the property owner.

The police would want to hold property either to profit off the things they confiscated or to prevent other criminals from using the property. Keeping gang members from using confiscated vehicles might be a reasonable goal for law enforcement, but we should be wary when police are allowed to profit from their jobs. When police talk about protecting and serving, we should ensure that the people they are serving are the general public, not themselves.

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President Obama Calls for an End to Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy is the caveman-like practice of “healing” LGBT people. Participants, mostly minors forced in by their parents, undergo extreme brainwash therapy in the hopes of turning them straight. Most conversion therapists believe being gay is a choice, or is a result of sexual trauma as a child. Conversion therapy can consist of meeting with a “therapist” once a week, to admittance into a 24 hour facility in which you eat, breathe, live, conversion practices.

obama calls for an end of conversion therapyThis barbaric type of therapy came to President Obama’s attention after 17 year old transgender youth Leelah Alcorn, killed herself. She left a suicide note indicating conversion therapists added a huge role in her suicide.

An online petition calling for a ban on conversion therapy received 120,000 in just three months. In response, President Obama decided it was time to end such discriminatory and threatening practices. Mr. Obama is going to support the efforts to ban the practice at state level, instead of calling for a federal law banning therapists from using conversion tactics. We can only hope a federal ban will be enacted at some point.

California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have already banned therapists from offering treatment to minors.  Legislation regarding conversion therapy has also been introduced in 18 states, including the Human Rights Campaign and a gay rights group that tracks this type of legislation.

With President Obama’s initiative, and overwhelming evidence of the link between conversion therapy and suicide among the LGBT community, this oppressive and ignorant practice might someday be put to a stop.

Should Parents Be Taxed or Fined for Not Vaccinating Their Children?

Vaccinations became a popular talking point after the Disneyland measles outbreak occurred earlier this year. The topic became very divisive and individuals were either pro or anti-vaccinations. Regardless of which side you are on, it is undeniable that there is a rise in unvaccinated children in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • The national average of school children vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is 95%, but this number is not consistent throughout all 50 states.
  • 26 states have not reached the national goal of 95% and fall far below.

children vaccineThe average number of vaccinated children varies from state to state due to various state exemptions and vaccination requirements.

  • 48 states allow parents to opt out of vaccinations through religious exemptions.
  • 20 states allow parents to opt out based on philosophical exemptions.
  • States also provide for medical exemptions for children going through chemotherapy or other health treatments that would not allow for vaccinations.

Due to the rising number of children not partaking in vaccinations and the spread of deadly diseases like the measles, many want to know if parents can be held legally accountable for not vaccinating their children.

The cost of outbreaks can be high for both families affected by the disease and the general public. For example, a single case of measles can cost state agencies more than $10,000 to track and stop the spread of the disease.

Due to the economic and physical harms that anti-vaccination can cause, some are calling for vaccine taxation or even more severe penalties, such as legal liability. Proponents of a vaccine tax want non-vaccinating parents to front the bill for these costs. The proposed procedure is to impose fees or have parents pay a charge up-front for not vaccinating.

Many supporters of the tax believe that it’s justified because it would be a deterrent for parents who do not vaccinate their children. Also, supporters believe it would be fair to parents that do vaccinate their children because they wouldn’t be force to pay for the risks taken by non-vaccinating parents.

On the other hand, many people are skeptical that this solution would work because tracking down the unvaccinated individual responsible for the outbreak would be difficult. Still, many are in support of taxes because they believe money is a great motivator that can change an individual’s behavior and choices with regards to vaccines.

States have yet to adopt these taxing laws, so there really isn’t a definitive answer to whether these penalties will be effective or not. Only time will tell if vaccination trends will naturally change or are influenced by government intervention.

Judge Directs Couple to Get Married after Woman Attempts to Light Her Boyfriend on Fire

Courts have handed a number of creative sentences over the last few years. Judges have ordered criminal defendants to wear signs outside the store they shoplifted from and buy flowers for their estranged wives. In western Pennsylvania, Quenesia Catasphany plead guilty to reckless endangerment. Last October, Ms. Catasphany had doused her boyfriend, Andrew White, with lighter fluid. Judge Joseph Williams III gave Ms. Catasphany an unusual option: Judge Williams could work out a lesser sentence if Ms. Catasphany and her boyfriend/victim got married.

pennsylvania judgeThe reasoning behind Judge William’s proposal was rather simple. Catasphany was pregnant and would give birth to their fourth child two days later. Catasphany had accused her then boyfriend of having an affair and threatened to set White on fire. In the judge’s eyes, Catasphany lacked stability in her life. So in the hearing on March 23, Judge Williams proposed the two of them get married. If they did, Judge Williams stated they “might be able to work this out better.”

Later that day, Catasphany and White got married. Judge Williams personally married the couple himself. Catasphany told local media that she was very grateful for the opportunity to better their relationship and she appreciated the judge speaking on her behalf.

Married by Duress or Happy Ever After?

Catasphany seems to be happy with the end result, but there’s no word on whether her new husband is happy with the arrangement. Getting doused with lighter fluid and then having a judge arrange the victim’s marriage to the attacker doesn’t sound like a very romantic engagement. If one of the new spouses becomes unhappy, could Catasphany or White use their unusual marital circumstances as a way to untie the knot?

Theoretically, Catasphany and White could claim Judge Williams had coerced them into getting married. Marriage by duress would mean that the parties didn’t consent to being married and the marriage could be annulled.

This sounds good in theory, but courts interpret duress very narrowly. Catasphany was forced to make a choice between marriage and getting a higher sentence, but it was still her choice. Likewise, White could have declined the judge’s proposal and refused to marry the woman who threw lighter fluid at him.

In all the prior creative sentencing, the judge’s alternative sentence did not continue indefinitely. Using state power to convince people to get married is potentially a life sentence, a sentence longer than any jail time the judge could hand down for this particular crime. It’s also a continual relationship between a potential domestically violent relationship. Given the nature and length of this “sentence,” Catasphany and White each should have consulted an attorney before making a life-impacting decision.

Judge Williams proposal was reasonable, but expecting the couple to make a decision within three days meant that Catasphany and White couldn’t possibly foresee all the problems this alternative sentence might cause them in the future. Best of luck to the newlyweds.

How the Nanny State and Technology Intersect to Stop Crime

Ronald Bjarnason, 59, was arrested in Northern California last week on suspicion of a hit-and-run and for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Nanny State Police TechnologyNobody reported Bjarnason, no one was involved in the accident, and there were no witnesses. So how did the police know to show up at the scene?

The BMW he crashed sent out an automated distress call, alerting the police.

Police found the car crashed into a guardrail at around 12:20 a.m., but Bjarnason was nowhere to be found. An officer heard rustling in a bush nearby, and a homeowner said his surveillance system captured a man running across his lawn right after the accident occurred.

Officers then came upon a duffel bag filled with 13 pounds of marijuana along the suspected path Bjarnason took to escape the scene.

Police eventually found Bjarnason and arrested him. The Corte Madera police, Marin County Major Crimes Task Force, and the Central Marin Special Response team then obtained a warrant to search Bjarnason’s home in Piercy. They discovered 2,000 marijuana plants, pounds of cultivated marijuana, Ecstasy pills, psilocybin mushroom cultivation, weapons, and cash.

Bjarnason is out of custody pending possible charges.

Nanny State and Smart Technology

Would Bjarnason have gotten away if his BMW did not send a distress call? To be honest, probably not. He still crashed, and he was still caught on camera. The only difference is that the police arrived on scene faster. Is this the result of a nanny state?

In my opinion, it’s not. New technology doesn’t hinder us, it allows us to be safer in a world where 1.3 million people die in car crashes every year. That automated distress call can save the valuable seconds a person needs in order to survive.