Saturday, February 23, 2013

Law against offering a ride to a kid

I have often argued against overbroad criminal laws, together with assumptions that the authorities will apply reasonable discretion in prosecuting such laws. I am glad to see an Ohio court has struck down such a law:
Mr. Goode was convicted of violating R.C. 2905.05(A), which provides,
No person, by any means and without privilege to do so, shall knowingly solicit, coax, entice, or lure any child under fourteen years of age to accompany the person in any manner, including entering into any vehicle or onto any vessel, whether or not the offender knows the age of the child, if both of the following apply:

(1) The actor does not have the express or implied permission of the parent, guardian, or other legal custodian of the child in undertaking the activity.

(2) The actor is not a law enforcement officer, medic, firefighter, or other person who regularly provides emergency services, and is not an employee or agent of, or a volunteer acting under the direction of, any board of education, or the actor is any of such persons, but, at the time the actor undertakes the activity, the actor is not acting within the scope of the actor’s lawful duties in that capacity.
... Undoubtedly, R.C. 2905.05(A) has an admirable purpose, which is “to prevent child abductions or the commission of lewd acts with children.” However, ... “[t]he common, ordinary meaning of the word ‘solicit’ encompasses ‘merely asking.’” “R.C. 2905.05(A) fails to require that the prohibited solicitation occur with the intent to commit any unlawful act.”

For example, parents picking up their child from school would theoretically violate R.C. 2905.05(A) merely by asking their child’s friend if he or she wanted a ride home. Because there is no requirement that a person have ill-intent when asking the child to accompany him or her, R.C. 2905.05(A) prohibits a wide variety of speech and association far beyond the statute’s purpose of safeguarding children. Other states with similar statutes at least require illicit intent. For example, a Florida statute prohibits a person from luring a child “into a structure, dwelling, or conveyance for other than a lawful purpose ....” ...

Nevertheless, the State argues that the sweeping nature of R.C. 2905.05(A) is not problematic because “a police officer can distinguish between innocent behavior and criminal behavior under the statute.” In other words, the State urges us to ignore the breadth of the statute because it can be selectively enforced. Even if the statute did grant the police the discretion to determine what was illegal and what was legal, similar grants of discretion to police officers have consistently been found to be unconstitutional....
No, cops cannot make that distinction.

While this law is out, the San Francisco sheriff was prosecuted for grabbing his wife's arm. The authorities somehow decided that his marriage was not right, and should be busted up.

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