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

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  • Yes

    16 76.19%
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    5 23.81%
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Thread: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

  1. #21
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    Bob Blaylock's Avatar
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by SapphireSpire View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
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    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.
    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.
    I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

    It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

    Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

    Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.
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  2. #22
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
    I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

    It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

    Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

    Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.
    I never said anything should ever be blindly assumed. It's a matter of moral common sense. What you describe is not a case where the laws would be repealed but where special clauses of existing laws only take effect under special circumstances. Anyone convicted then would still be culpable after the circumstances have improved because the law would still exist even if it no longer applies. That's not the same as when a law is repealed. When the legislature repeals a law, or it's stuck down by the SC, it means the law is unjust and should never have existed in the first place, which means it was wrong to convict anyone under it.

  3. #23
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Once a person spends a long time in jail/prison, there's nothing you can do about the wreckage. It changes a person and those changes can't be undone. You can give them the world, but you can't give back the time or memories associated with incarceration.

    I only said yes because I think it would be fair, but I don't think it would do a bit of good for most people in that situation. Some people can overcome the experience. I would say a high percentage would not.
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Morally: yes.

    Legally: My understanding is that repeal of law does not automatically result in the release of convicts for that offense. The legislators would have to pass a bill specifying release for the convicts or the governor/president could offer pardons.

  5. #25
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    Re: Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Blaylock View Post
    I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

    It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

    Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

    Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.
    That's not a bad argument. Not sure it changes my mind, but it's worthy of consideration.
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