View Poll Results: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

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Thread: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

  1. #11
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    Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    All depends. If gay marriage is struck down in a state where it was authorized, would it make sense that the couples were no longer married? A bit of a mess.

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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Yes, it should. People shouldn't be in prison for something that is no longer illegal.
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  3. #13
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by AliHajiSheik View Post
    All depends. If gay marriage is struck down in a state where it was authorized, would it make sense that the couples were no longer married? A bit of a mess.

    Pants? Let him out.
    I'm sorry AliHajiSheik, but I believe that you have mis-understood this poll's point. It is discussing the idea of a person convicted of a crime and currently incarcerated when for whatever reason, the law which made the act criminal was then later repealed.

    Marriage is not a "criminal" issue, but one involving civil law. A whole different kettle of fish.

  4. #14
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Laws get repealed because they are in error. Not only should all previous convictions be rescinded,
    everyone who was convicted under such a law should have all fines, fees, and restitution charges
    refunded, all confiscated property returned, all damaged property repaired or replaced for free,
    they should be generously compensated for every minute of time they spent in prison and unable
    to work, and their criminal records should be permanently destroyed.
    Last edited by SapphireSpire; 06-22-13 at 12:46 PM.

  5. #15
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    I see no way that society is bettered by keeping such a person still incarcerated when it is no longer trying to stop people from doing what this person was originally incarcerated for. I assume that the heart of this question is whether changing the drug laws should result in releasing drug offenders and yes, it should. Getting rid of a major criminal charge like would have to be accompanied by the rationale, "this shouldn't have been a crime in the first place." And if it shouldn't have been a crime in the first place, people shouldn't still be locked up for it. The same would be true of prostitution or copyright issues if we change those laws (and we should).

    So yes, let all the potheads out of jail when marijuana becomes legal. They should never have been there at all.
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  6. #16
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Adverse View Post
    I voted yes, although this issue took some deep thought before responding to .

    I had to break it down into two segments: Repeal was because the law was found unconstitutional; Repeal because social attitudes had changed and it was no longer considered a criminal offense.

    If the law was repealed because it was deemed unconstitutional, then of course the person should be released immediately and his record completely cleared. That's because his original conviction was a violation of his constitutional rights and he never really committed any wrong-doing in the first place.

    The second one is trickier, because even though a law has been repealed after a public change of heart; as Redress states in (his/her?) quote, the person should have been aware at the time that he was committing a criminal offense and in making the choice to do so also agreed to submit to the penalty if caught.

    Now we all know that while the dictum "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse" is upheld by courts even though they know there are too many laws for people (even lawyers, judges or cops) to have memorized, it's still done because otherwise every defendant would claim ignorance and expect to be set free.

    Still, in my opinion the fact that society has determined this activity is no longer illegal obviates the need to either continue punishment or maintain any record of such criminality. So I believe the person should not only be immediately released from all obligations, but his record should also be completely cleared. Why? Reall we live in an era of data-mining and background check businesses, so we should act to prevent his past from being used against him in this new era where the original act is no longer considered to be criminal.
    Excellent post and excellent point about differing between constitutional vs societal changes.
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    I voted no, but might have voted yes had you included that anything that was legal now was made lllegal you would have to pay the piper because of the change

  8. #18
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

    Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

    Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.
    I don't think there's an easy, once-size-fits-all yes/no answer to this.

    The Constitution prohibits the enactment of an “ex post facto law”. What this means, is that a law cannot be enacted that takes effect before the time it is actually enacted. The best practical example would be passing a law which criminalizes a particular behavior, then prosecuting someone for engaging in that behavior before the law actually took effect. Say the law is enacted and takes effect in 1997, and the guy in the OP's example is convicted based on evidence that he was seen in public wearing plaid shorts in 1996. You cannot legally someone for doing something that was legal at the time that he did it.

    I think a case could be argued that the ex post facto principle applies the other way as well; that someone who did something that was illegal at the time he did it is still culpable for that crime even if the act that he committed has since been legalized.

    Given that the Constitution as a whole is intended as a restraint on government, and where it covers criminal matters in particular, the Constitution and the body of “common law”*on which it is founded supports a balance much more in favor of one who is accused of a crime than on government to prosecute someone for a crime (hence such things as the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict to convict, and the non-appealability of an “innocent”*verdict); I see plenty of room to limit the use of the ex post facto principle as far as retaining a conviction for an act that ls later legalized.

    Perhaps it should be valid for a law which legalizes a previously illegal act to include a provision that explicitly states that any previous convictions for the act being legalized are overturned, and once such a law takes effect, any who have ever been convicted for the now-legalized act would automatically have their conviction removed from the record, and any who are still serving sentences would immediately be released from the remainder thereof. I suppose we'd need the courts to determine whether such a provision can actually be valid, or whether it would still violate the ex post facto principle.

    I suppose a away around the ex post facto principle might be for every such bill to include some sort of mass-pardon provision, so that when the President/Governor/Mayor is signing that bill into law, he is also signing a pardon for any convictions that were based on the now-legalized behavior.


    As a matter of ethics, I can see it possible to go either way.

    I can imagine there being situations where it is harmful at one time to engage in a particular behavior, to the degree that it is reasonable to enact laws against that behavior and to prosecute as criminals those who engage in it; and the situation to later change so that the same behavior is no longer harmful, and it is no longer reasonable to prosecute people as criminals for doing it; but where it is still reasonable for those who were convicted of that behavior when it was illegal to continue to be treated as criminals.

    I can also imagine situations where a populace might simply decide that a behavior that was once regarded as harmful never really was, and that not only should people no longer be prosecuted for it, but that those who previously were convicted should no longer bear the stain of that conviction.
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Released and compensated for lost time in the workforce.

    But which laws should be repealed?

  10. #20
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
    I think a case could be argued that the ex post facto principle applies the other way as well; that someone who did something that was illegal at the time he did it is still culpable for that crime even if the act that he committed has since been legalized.
    What is the purpose of the law? If the people are to always be subjugated to the arbitrary whims of corrupt and misguided lawmakers, only then can the case be made that anyone who brakes a law remains eternally culpable for it. But if the purpose of the law is to ensure maximum liberty by prohibiting only actions of force and fraud and by limiting certain freedoms to the extent necessary to prevent mutual infringement, then nobody is obligated to follow any laws that do otherwise and no case can be made that anyone is culpable for what should never have been a crime in the first place.
    Last edited by SapphireSpire; 06-23-13 at 03:57 PM.

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