View Poll Results: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

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  • Intent (spirit).

    10 41.67%
  • Letter.

    5 20.83%
  • Could be either, depends on the specifics.

    8 33.33%
  • Other.

    1 4.17%
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Thread: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

  1. #11
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fisher View Post
    Most criminal laws have no specific intent requirement: You were speeding or you were not; you shoplifted or you did not; you possessed a firearm as a felon or you did not. Some states allow you to not be punished under certain circumstances in the discretion of the Court but you still are guilty in some very defined emergency circumstances where you had no other option but to speed or drive without a license to save a life or something and there were no other reasonable options.

    Here are some of the more common specific intent crimes. (10 Specific Intent Crimes)
    Excellent post and source.

    I knew the difference between assault and battery... even though I commonly misuse the word "assault" to mean battery... but I was not aware there was a difference between the criminal and civil definitions and uses.

    One example that comes readily to my mind regarding the original question is civil asset forfeiture. We were assured it would never be used for insidious purposes, would be used sparingly as "another tool for law enforcement to fight the war on drugs", yada yada yada, yet it has precisely turned into nothing but a shakedown in many jurisdictions. All the warnings and assurances proved squat. The letter of the law says LE can do 'x', so they do 'x'.
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

  2. #12
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    Excellent post and source.

    I knew the difference between assault and battery... even though I commonly misuse the word "assault" to mean battery... but I was not aware there was a difference between the criminal and civil definitions and uses.

    One example that comes readily to my mind regarding the original question is civil asset forfeiture. We were assured it would never be used for insidious purposes, would be used sparingly as "another tool for law enforcement to fight the war on drugs", yada yada yada, yet it has precisely turned into nothing but a shakedown in many jurisdictions. All the warnings and assurances proved squat. The letter of the law says LE can do 'x', so they do 'x'.
    Civil forfeiture is certainly taken to the extreme in some places. Ours isn't one of them. The property is taken and then once the person is convicted, they have a hearing as to the seized property with notice to people with obvious legal interest like the defendant, the people whose names are on the title or to whom a weapon was registered. If you can make a reasonable case that it was your property and you did not know the person was, for instance, using your car to transport drugs, you can usually get it released back to you well before the person goes to court or the hearing is held. Sometimes it is pretty self-evident like an employee in a company car with a business bank deposit who also happened to have a brick of pot on them. It always amuses me to see the cases listed in the docket because they are styled like "State v. $28.53; State v. 1994 Ford Ranger; State v. Remington 12 gauge shotgun" and the like.

  3. #13
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    I knew the difference between assault and battery... even though I commonly misuse the word "assault" to mean battery...
    I think it depends on the state, some do not have battery, if I understand correctly.

  4. #14
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    I think this issue (intent vs. specifics) is easy to settle:

    We change specifics to match intention. We never change intention to match specifics. Therefore, intention takes precedence.

  5. #15
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fisher View Post
    Civil forfeiture is certainly taken to the extreme in some places. Ours isn't one of them. The property is taken and then once the person is convicted, they have a hearing as to the seized property with notice to people with obvious legal interest like the defendant, the people whose names are on the title or to whom a weapon was registered. If you can make a reasonable case that it was your property and you did not know the person was, for instance, using your car to transport drugs, you can usually get it released back to you well before the person goes to court or the hearing is held. Sometimes it is pretty self-evident like an employee in a company car with a business bank deposit who also happened to have a brick of pot on them. It always amuses me to see the cases listed in the docket because they are styled like "State v. $28.53; State v. 1994 Ford Ranger; State v. Remington 12 gauge shotgun" and the like.
    For all my attention on civil asset forfeiture... it is my #1 pet issue... I do know that not all jurisdictions abuse it. Probably most don't abuse it. But, the ones that do abuse it really seriously abuse it.



    Quote Originally Posted by ecofarm View Post
    I think this issue (intent vs. specifics) is easy to settle:

    We change specifics to match intention. We never change intention to match specifics. Therefore, intention takes precedence.
    That's always what I've thought. Over the last few decades I've read of people having concerns regarding proposed laws, and the sponsors of the law will say something like, "Oh, it'll never be used for that.", but at the same time will resist placing verbiage into the law to ensure it is never abused because they claim such verbiage would be "too restrictive".
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

  6. #16
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    That's always what I've thought. Over the last few decades I've read of people having concerns regarding proposed laws, and the sponsors of the law will say something like, "Oh, it'll never be used for that.", but at the same time will resist placing verbiage into the law to ensure it is never abused because they claim such verbiage would be "too restrictive".
    I don't think bickering over the specifics of intent in proposed legislation counters the fundamental issue of which is more important regarding established law.

  7. #17
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    The questions related to how the law should be pursued and/or prosecuted by the justice system.
    If we are talking about philosophies of constitutional/statutory interpretation, I think the letter is most important. Legislators have a wide variety of intents. The letter is what they agree upon, and even then the letter likely meant different things to different people. It should be interpreted with this in mind, but also with a practical focus. If legislators intended something different, they can always clarify that intent by passing new legislation.
    (avatar by Thomas Nast)

  8. #18
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by ecofarm View Post
    I don't think bickering over the specifics of intent in proposed legislation counters the fundamental issue of which is more important regarding established law.
    ...which is?
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

  9. #19
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    ...which is?
    Intent determines specifics, not vice versa.

  10. #20
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    Re: What's more important? The intent of the law, or the letter of the law?

    The intent and the letter should be one in the same. Any deviation from that, is just too Democrat for America to put up with.

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