Vague Laws that Criminalize Lawful Activity
South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney William Moore explains how bad or vague laws are enacted and how our protection against being prosecuted for otherwise legal activity may not be an attractive option. Effect of Police State is also discussed.
Politically charged or a gateway crime is one that has the effect of either eroding our constitutional rights or alternatively grants unbridled policing power to the government. William Moore an attorney in Broward County Florida cautions against relying on the United States Constitution to protect us from criminal statutes that are clearly vague.
For those of you who are not up on the interaction between the United States Constitution and lawmaking I would remind you that laws put into effect in Florida that criminalize otherwise lawful behavior should be struck down as violating the United States Constitution. Florida statutes that criminalize otherwise lawful behavior are argued as being vague in that the restricted act cannot be articulated in such a way without a clear reading of the law as prohibiting lawful acts.
Unfortunately, a blind reliance our rights can lead us into trouble.
Just look what became of the prosecutor’s burden of proof shortly after CMI introduced Intoxilyzer’s for sale to police departments all over the nation. Suddenly there was no requirement that they prove every element of a DUI beyond and to the exclusion of any and all reasonable doubt. At least not with regard to impaired faculties. Provided a prosecutor can introduce evidence of a number spit out by one of these breath machines, a jury can rely on that information alone to find that a defendant was impaired.
There need be nothing else introduced by way of evidence, provided that piece of paper with a number on it is introduced into evidence. Never mind that only engineers at CMI in Kentucky know the source codes responsible for the complex mathematic computations required for a so-called accurate breath alcohol content reading.
Some criminal defenses attorneys still haven’t realized that injunctions against repeat violence have sprouted and multiplied into both unconstitutional and dangerous weapons that are now commonly used in a nasty breakup. Temporary restraining orders are some of the most powerful statutes that Florida has passed. TRO’s have teeth when used correctly and for an ill intended purpose.
Honest Services Fraud
In the mid-1980s the United States Congress sought to, and did modify our country’s federal mail and wire fraud statutes. The modification was seen by lawmakers as being a new form of white-collar crime and was intended to be applied by federal prosecutors in cases involving public corruption.
The law criminalized an act that could be seen as depriving another of honest services. Denying one the intangible right to honest services would make it a crime to appear for a bond hearing without having read every word of an otherwise boilerplate motion. One that any young lawyer could guess as to the gist of.
This bizarre and oddly worded statute actually did pass in 1998 despite heavy criticism that the law was vague and criminalized lawful conduct.
As far as I understand, prosecutors never pushed to exercise the constitutional limits of the statute and otherwise restricted themselves to pursuing the depriving of services only where same was done so by way of bribes and or kickbacks.
That’s not the point explains Moore. A law that criminalizes otherwise lawful behavior should not be left to the discretion of a police state that may or may not exercise control and Institute only lawful prosecution. Because even if they did, you are still left with a general public who is aware that they may be prosecuted for lawful behavior. The fact that a remedy appears to exist by way of federal appeal to the higher court that a law is vague would be of no consequence.
People live in fear under these regimes.