Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Find the problem

What is the real problem here?

Here is what the Detroit Free Press reports:

The ruling grows out of a case in which a Charlevoix man accused of trading Oxycontin pills for the sexual favors of a cocktail waitress was charged under an obscure provision of Michigan's criminal law. The provision decrees that a person is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct whenever "sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony."
Fair enough. The law seems to be aimed at making it that rape is bad, but rape during the commission of another felony is worse. I am guessing the intent is to make it that the penalty for, as an example, rape during a robbery to be greater than the penalties for a rape and a robbery added together. Personally, I think the better answer is to get judges who consistently impose lenient sentences off the bench, but I can understand the impetus for the law.

In this case, the felony was the sale of drugs. There was no rape, however. The drugs were being exchanged for sex. I doubt that this was the intent of the law, but it does fit in the language of the law. The court correctly, according to my read of the law, decided that the charges were valid. The court questioned, as I did above, if this was the intent of the law, with Judge William Murphy writing "We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today, but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion."

Fair enough. The legislature, if it is so inclined, can revisit the law and modify it if it deems the language to be overly broad.

However, Judge Murphy goes much further, and engages in what sounds like some serious hyperbole.
"Technically," he added, "any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I," the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan's criminal code.
Huh? Why is this?
The judges said they recognized their ruling could have sweeping consequences, "considering the voluminous number of felonious acts that can be found in the penal code." Among the many crimes Michigan still recognizes as felonies, they noted pointedly, is adultery -- although the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan notes that no one has been convicted of that offense since 1971.
See the problem?

This is not a problem with the new law. This is not a problem with an overzealous prosecutor taking the drug war too far. This is a problem with a puritan and antiquated law remaining on the books. The solution is simple-- get the law that makes adultery a felony repealed. End of problem.

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