Sunday, June 22, 2008

New laws

I'm not of big fan of enacting new legislation, but for some time now I have been seeing a part of social interaction which is sadly deficient in controlling laws.

I hereby propose that Chapter 50 be added to the Texas Penal Code, simply titled: "Stupidity".

While it may be tempting to start this new chapter with general "Misdemeanor Stupidity" followed up by "Felony Stupidity", I have noticed that in a lot of cases, violating the Stupidity Statutes tends to be a self-correcting problem.

No, Gentle Readers, I have decided -- this very day, as a matter-of-fact -- that Chapter 50 only needs to consist of two charges: 1) Failure To Mind Your Own Business; and 2) Aggravated Failure To Mind Your Own Business.

The elements of the misdemeanor offence would be as follows:

A person, at a time and a place;
intentionally or knowingly;
involves himself in the affairs of a second or third party;
when a reasonable man would decide it isn't the first person's business;
and by such involvement tends to cause a breach of the peace.


For instance, here we have "Frank". "Frank" is regularly having chandelier-swinging sex with "JoAnne", with the caveat that both "Frank" and "JoAnne" are married -- but not to each other.

"Darlene" is a neighbor to "Frank", but isn't married to either one, nor is she either kith or kin to either "Frank" or "JoAnne".

However, "Darlene" is outraged enough by the activities of two consenting adult strangers that she arranges to tell the wife of "Frank" about the infidelity -- resulting in "Mrs Frank" destroying various toys belonging to her spouse, selling off others, setting fire to still more, and following up by standing in the front yard, shrieking like a banshee and throwing various breakables at "Frank" and his car, thereby waking up the whole sodding neighborhood and necessitating the attention of the Gardai.

In this case, "Frank" would be firmly advised to find other lodging for the nonce, "Mrs. Frank" would be gently advised to cease and desist from the Abusive, Indecent or Profane Language (In A Public Place) -- not to mention the Littering -- and "Darlene" would be hauled off to jail for misdemeanor Failure To Mind Her Own Business.

The elements of the felony offence would be the same as above, only replace the last line with:

"and such involvement causes the risk of death, serious bodily injury or the felony arrest of one or both of the involved parties."

As an example -- a creative articulation -- here is "Joe". Some years ago "Joe" and his daughter "Shannon" had a falling out, leading to Shannon running off to California, vowing Never To Return.

Time, distance, and the arrival of a grand-daughter has mellowed the relationship between "Joe" and "Shannon" enough that "Shannon" and her daughter have moved back to town.

All is peachy and keen ... until "Chuck" hears from his sister's daughter's boyfriend's second-cousin-twice-removed's baby-sitter that "Shannon" has apparently taken up with a non-mainstream, somewhat untraditional religion.

"Chuck" -- bearing in mind that while he is a work buddy to "Joe", he is not a relative, nor would he actually recognize "Shannon" if her were to bump into her on the street -- breaks the news to "Joe" about his daughters choice in religion over a beer in the parking lot after work, and follows up with what seems to have been a truly awe-inspiring recital of those things what "everybody knows" about them "damn witches".

Let us say that "Joe" is inspired enough by this performance that he takes about $41.00 worth of gasoline, throws it upon the porch of his daughters rented house, and follows it up with a lit road flare.

In this -- hypothetical -- case, "Joe" would be arrested for Arson and "Chuck" would be arrested for Aggravated Failure To Mind His Own Goddess-be-damned Business.

I realize that some of the elements of this offence must be fine-tuned, but for too long have busy-bodies been nosing off into others peoples business thereby causing hate, discontent, heartburn and police involvement -- and the time is now to start making them shoulder some of the responsibility for the result.

LawDog

33 comments:

Mulligan said...

you'd think there's enough wrong with the world people could find something to fix without peeking over the neighbor's fence and forcing their personal morality on everyone.

Anonymous said...

Can you throw in a clause for mandatory sterilization before the law is signed into effect?
They breed you know!

Larry said...

I can see one serious problem with this scenario.
In California at least 5 bystanders watched as a 2 year old child was stomped to death. Not a single one of them stopped the stomping.
I think they are accessories to this child's murder, but at least they couldn't be charged with failure to mind their own business.
I do indeed understand the point you are trying to make with regards to people who think everyone else's business is their own. However, what happens to you is not nearly as important as how you deal with it. In this case "Joe" and "Mrs. Frank" dealt with it badly.
"Darlene" and "Chuck" could be charged with "Asshattery in the first degree" though, and sentenced to an ass-whooping administered by "Mrs. Frank" and "Joe".

Zdogk9 said...

I do like the way your mind works. A wee bit of fine tuning and you'd have something worth keeping. Throw in driving with an aural suppository and it'd be perfect.
.

Paul-Michael Bauer said...

My only problem with that proposal is who gets to define what is and is not someone else's business?

I think most people would agree that reporting rape, incest, or other such illegal and harmful behaviors would not be considered meddling.

Many people also seem to be of the opinion that actions between "consenting adults" should be nobodies business but the parties involved.

However, in most areas, there are statutes against adultery. Many also have anti-homosexual laws. How does one discriminate between illegal behavior that is Not Your Own Business and illegal behavior that is "harmful"? More importantly, WHO decides this? Who gets to say that one behavior is more or less damaging than the "obvious" OK-to-meddle transgressions?

I know that was somewhat satirical, but legislating MYOB laws is problematic no matter where a person's opinion lies on the moralist spectrum.

Thomas Paine said...

Ok, let me start off by ROTFLMAO! Sounds like some of those people should be arrested on Suspicion of Being a Busybody in a No Busybody Zone.

To Larry-Those 5 people in California weren't standing there watching, they tried to restrain the man, albeit ineffectively, as the man was shot when police arrived after refusing to stop.

To Paul-Michael Bauer-There is a simple principle that one can use in deciding whether to meddle or not. Watch out for the Latin legal terms here: Know the difference between MALA IN SE and MALA PROHIBIDA. Mala in se means "evil in itself" and mala prohibida means "evil because it's prohibited."

Killing, rape, child abuse, these are all cases of mala in se. By all means meddle in cases like that because someone is being physically injured.

Drug use, driving without a license, carrying a firearm without a permit, these are all examples of mala prohibida. There is nothing inherently evil about doing any of these things, but they are illegal nevertheless.

As for infidelity and someone's choice of church, in the name of small fishes and leprechauns, stay out of it. True, there might be a regulation against it somewhere. Doesn't mean it's the business of any unrelated thrid party.

It reminds me of a story I once heard about two cops on foot patrol who come across two drunk guys fist fighting. One cop is a grizzled veteran, the other, a rookie. The rookie starts getting flustered cause they're breaking the law right in front of him. The veteran tells the rookie to cool it, because "Not everyone has to go to jail."

Rogue Medic said...

I think the bigger problem is with idiot A, who acts on idiot B's information, but does so without coercion. That there are still adultery, sodomy, and other minding other people's business laws is depressing.

I am no fan of the the Iagos of the world, but publicizing their maliciousness, with the appropriate LD literary flair, might be a better method to control it.

Lonestar Gal said...

Sounds Logical. Let's do it.

KD5NRH said...

I haven't been to the gas station in a couple days - will $41 still buy enough to actually start a fire?

DW said...

LD,
You can't put everybody's Grannie in jail!

Mark Alger said...

I love the fundamental idea. However, I suspect that most of the truly bad political ideas to come down the pike since Noah built his first dingy (What! You think he was an amateur?) have been due to people's generalized inability to mind their own business.

Anti-drug laws, frinstance. Smoking bans. 1.5-gallon toilets.

And so-forth.

If such a law were to be passed, I suspect I'd be tenth in line (at best) wanting to file charges against most of Congress and the Northeast Establishment.

Or would that be NOT minding MY own business?

M

Paul-Michael Bauer said...

Know the difference between MALA IN SE and MALA PROHIBIDA. Mala in se means "evil in itself" and mala prohibida means "evil because it's prohibited."

Cute Latin, but it still doesn't address the issue. Who defines what is mala prohibida and mala in se?

You seemed to indicate "physical injury" as you bench mark - not sure I'd agree.

My guess is you wouldn't like me defining the difference. I'm not so sure I wouldn't agree with you - and visa-versa (ooooh latin...).

Simeron Steelhammer said...

Ah, you'd have to add some special terms for "offical capacity" you know LD. You know the ones, people in an authority position such as elected officals, school officials and the like that seem to think they know how to run our lives better then we do.

For example, say, a school board that calls children services on a mother because a wacko mindbender tells them "some child" is being sexually molested and little Suzy Q is showing the signs.

Of course, little Suzy Q has been since birth as she has been fully diagnosed with Autism and this is on record.

But that doesn't stop mommy from getting put through the ringer of CPS and the oh so ever fun smudge of a "molestation of a child" shadow placed firmly about her...

In fact, maybe there should be an even harder level then "felony"?

Maybe "felony with prejudice?"

Not really sure when it comes to legal terms. Not sure anything could be higher then felony.

Ah well...

C. S. P. Schofield said...

Simeron Steelhammer:

I think the case you outline should be taken care of by a statute called "Conspiracy to commit public idiocy through an inability to check their own goddamned files". This will be a capitol crime, punishable by public stoning. In the situation you outline the defendants would include the school administration, the teacher or teachers who reported that Suzie Q was behaving like an abused child, the CPS dolts who didn't instantly notice the word "Autistic" on the files they requested from the school, and any and all Local Action Reporters who covered the story without turning up the Autism angle, on the general principle that you can seldom execute too many local talking heads.

Mark Alger:

I think we should extent Lawdog's idea to a egal framework allowing any citizen to challenge the actions of any segment of government on the grounds that the actions are not authorized by any segment of the constitution OR by any legislative act of Congress, and thus they constitute that Department (or section, or whatever) "exceeding their brief". For federal departments - such as the Army - specifically provided for in the Constitution or its amendments, a loss in court would result in forfeiture of that portion of their budget associated with the action in question; the first year's total going to the citizen who brought the suit. For departments NOT specifically provided for, a loss would result in being disbanded entirely for a period of not less than two years, with one year' budget going to the citizen. Under special circumstances, a two thirds majority of Congress could reinstate a department after ONE year, subject to Presidential veto.

Oh, Don't I Wish!

Riposte3 said...

Thomas Paine wrote: To Larry-Those 5 people in California weren't standing there watching, they tried to restrain the man, albeit ineffectively, as the man was shot when police arrived after refusing to stop.

Sorry Thomas, I have to disagree. They made a token effort, and were "stopped" when they were "pushed off." If that's all it took to stop them, they are still accessories. I just wish they could be charged with it. Or for negligence, or something similar.

As I've said in comments elsewhere, and on my own blog: If you haven't stopped him, and you're not beaten to the point you can't get back up, you didn't try hard enough.

Rick R. said...

Last I checked, SCOTUS dumped all the non-commercial sex crimes between two consenting adults when they overturned the sodomy statutes (Lawrence and Garner v. Texas).

Adultery may be an actionable cause for divorce, but I don't believe it is a crime anymore, just as choosing to explore the plumbing of a similarly shaped adult isn't, since Lawrence.

The fact that some states may still have unenforceable statutes on the books is irrelevant -- as unconstitutional statutes are not valid law.

16AmJur 2nd, Sec. 178
Constitutional law. The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and the name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it; an unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed .. An unconstitutional law is void. It imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it. An unconstitutional law cannot repeal or supersede any existing valid law. An unconstitutional statute cannot repeal or in any way effect an existing valid one.

Paul-Michael Bauer said...

^^^
L&G v. Texas regardless...

...my point still stands that legislating MYOB laws is problematic. Somebody, a group of persons, or a majority vote would decide what is permissible "meddling" and what is not.

Not sure I'm comfortable with that and I'd be shocked to see anyone seriously promote it beyond satire.

Chris said...

I think this is the first time I've seriously disagreed with you LawDog.

Libel and Slander laws already cover lying to someone about stuff like this.

Arson laws already cover burning a house down. Attempted murder, etc. are already on the books.

Why are we attempting to criminalize (at the point of a gun) the sharing of factual information again?

Is it OK for a husband's brother to tell him that said husband's wife is cheating on him? How about said husbands best friend? Buddy from work? Random guy on the street? How does the relationship play any part? If you're concerned about the truthfulness of what is said, see libel/slander and consider that we're not talking about untrue events, per se, but the sharing of said information at all.

Are we really suggesting that a husband must witness his wife cheating on him himself, in person, to do anything about it?

I think people have forgotten the usefulness of society regulating itself. Years ago, it was not unheard of for people to be ostracized for getting pregnant outside of marriage. Now it's either "not anyone's business" or not something to be "judged."

Lynch mobs are already illegal, I don't understand why we want to criminalize folks looking out for each other.

Anonymous said...

The One Ring of Power.

It seems that even libertarians wouldn't be able to resist legislating their "hands off" view of morality.

"If (in my opinion) it isn't your business, don't make it your business. Or else"

Anonymous said...

There should be a special class of felony for Home Owner Associations. These are professional busybodies, don't get in their way, they are considered extremely dangerous. Do not try to engage in logical conversation. Do not provoke. Run to your nearest bar and seek political asylum.

Chris in SE TX said...

Well, LD, I have attempted this before (not successfully). I am now going to attempt it again.

So, I will have to disagree with you on your first example. For one thing, if my wife was cheating on me, I would want to know. I don't care who, or why would tell me this. Now, I would not necessarily BELIEVE it, but I would keep my eyes open.

Second, it's kind of like blackmail (which I feel should be legal in most cases):

If you don't do anything wrong, you don't have to worry about it. In other words, if you do underhanded things, you: a) have to worry that someone will snitch you out, and b) at least you have to extend SOME (or great) effort to avoid getting busted.

On top of that, do you feel the same way about people "not minding their own business" and reporting crimes? Say I see a couple of men climbing through a window at 1am into a neighbor's house. Should I call the cops? Or should I just say, well, maybe he forgot to give his friends a key, or maybe it's his teenage son and friends?

Keep in mind, that with your proposal, what happens if I did call the cops, who then show up and wake the Dad and it turns out it WAS just his son and his friend? His father flips out because his son was sneaking into the house and ends up "disturbing the peace" in the middle of the night. After the cops leave, he beats the crap out of his son. So, I am charged with a felony.

I think that criminals would absolutely LOVE for people to "mind their own business" and not wonder what is going on down the street.

Your second (felony) example I don't have a problem with, so maybe your idea has merit, just needs to be fine-tuned. Or, most likely, my argument will be teared to shreds in a gentleman's fashion.

Byron said...

Minding one's own business doesn't mean not paying attention to what's going on, people. It simply means keeping one's mouth firmly closed except when someone is being harmed.

Unfortunately, it would never pass a legislature as most astute legislators would realize they'd be the first people imprisoned on felonies.

Matt G said...

I like that you put "Stupidity" in the chapter next to "Intoxication Offenses."

Anonymous said...

Actually, if two people are getting it on with those other than their spouses/mates, what definable good does it do to rat them out?
No, really. Tell me exactly what benefits can be accrued by any party in those marriages when the whistle is blown.
We all know the avidity with which busybodies impart their 'information.' They get off on having a secret, which empowers them. This power rush, however, tends to be temporary when the 'kill the messenger' mindset kicks in with the victim of this unwanted and unexpected information.
What has been accomplished when meddler blows the whistle?
Had said busybody left things alone, it's very possible that once the fling was over, everything would have returned to normal without anyone being the worse for it-had not some busybody interfered.
Nobody wins.
LawMom

Chris in SE TX said...

LawMom,
It probably varies from person to person, but I can't speak for other people, so I will answer for myself:

*I* would want to know. I would then take steps to verify the information. Then, I would bring the subject up. I can't say if I would stay in that marriage or not, that depends on a lot of factors, and may not even be up to me. The reasons why people may want to know could be many. From contracting AIDS because your spouse sleeps with everyone and their dog, to choosing to leave before having children or buying a house or choosing to pay for the spouse to become a doctor. Or simply not wanting to stay with someone who you can't trust.

Situations can vary as well. If I was out of the country for 12 months and my wife had a "fling" out of town, I probably wouldn't want to know. If she had orgies every time I'm out of town, I would HOPE someone would have the decency to tell me before she slept with everyone in town more than twice.

BTW, my view is not so much based on the view that adultery is "wrong", but more on the view that if your loved one is willing to break your trust and hurt you to satisfy their SELFISH desires, you at least should be allowed to make an INFORMED decision if you want to stay with someone you can't trust. The trust is the issue here. I have no problems with open marriages, swingers etc because it is not done behind their (supposedly) loved one's back.

In other words, in example #1 if both couples had a foursome together and the neighbor blabbed about it to their (adult) kids, I would agree with LawDog.

Anonymous said...

Well, Chris, I can cite two very sad reasons for not. I had
English friends, with two children. He was in the RAF and went to Canada for a year. While he was there, he had a fling. He had no intention of leaving his wife and kids, so I suppose it was just biology. He had been back in England several months when a 'buddy' of his called up the wife and told her about the long-over-and-done-with fling. She slit her wrists and her kids came in from school and found her. So what was accomplished other than utter tragedy?
In another case, an Italian friend had married, in her 40s, a man nearly 20 years her junior. He was absolutely devoted to her, never looked at another woman, nor did she ever stray. I don't think she even thought about it.
But, as women will, when she reached her late 50s, she began to worry about her appearance, and knowing he'd object and be worried, she made up a story about going on a retreat, and took off for plastic surgery in Switzerland.
He, being insecure, began to worry about whether or not she was off on a wild affair and not on a retreat at all. A 'friend' sensing that here was an ample opportunity to make herself important by telling a tale, picked up on his fears and proceeded to confirm them for him-out of whole cloth; she knew nothing at all about any of it.
He proceeded to shoot himself, and a few days later, the wife, new face and all arrived home to surprise him. It was then she found out that he was dead, and she had no idea why he'd done it.
She figured that he couldn't stand to be married to an old wife any more, but was afraid to do anything about it and killed himself to escape her. You know the rest of the story: she killed herself as well.
As for AIDS and those other nasties brought on by doing the nasty with others, chances are you've already been exposed to it and very probably have it.
Snoopy meddlers do not set parameters; you can't choose the circumstances under which they'll tell you about affairs, real or imagined.
I am not at all in favor of keeping quiet when there is abuse, etc. It's a matter of ethical behavior against unethical, and often those who tell tales aren't really being moral; they are simply intent upon causing trouble, rendering themselves the unethical ones. So how do you know who to believe? You don't.
LawMom

Rogue Medic said...

LawMom,

These sound like pretty unstable people. Chris has written that he would look into the allegations. Why do these people overreact? Why do we not look at them and realize that their problems were far more serious than the latest information/misinformation?

I am not encouraging people to be busybodies, but the person who receives the information and violently acts on the information is the one responsible, not the troublemaker who provided the information.

Why do we use the extreme unstable person as an example for anything?

Why do you presume that someone has been exposed to HIV and other viruses?

Why do we want to protect people from information? Encouraging ignorance is no virtue. Claiming that the person might react in a bad way to the information, so we should keep everyone ignorant, is a bad idea.

Chris in SE TX said...

So, because bad thing CAN happen, the whole system is bad? So, if I can dig up TWO examples where someone got hurt with their own gun instead of protecting himself with it, does this mean that NO ONE should have guns?

Just because in two cases people were somewhat unstable, that does not change anything. Should we ban news and the internet? After all, I might see something that will freak me out and cause me to kill myself.

"As for AIDS and those other nasties brought on by doing the nasty with others, chances are you've already been exposed to it and very probably have it."

?????

Are you saying that I have AIDS and "other nasties"???? WTF???

While I may have been exposed to AIDS (or whatever) 17+ years ago, does not change the fact that my chances of getting it today are very small, if both my wife and I remain faithul. Those chances rapidly increase if one or both of us sleep around. You make it look as if a very valid concern about health and safety of the spouse is trivial, compared to the, according to you, very real danger of suicide brought on by discovery of the affair. I have a feeling that a lot more people catch a disease from their spouse than commit suicide. AIDS is pretty much fatal (eventualy)

Anyway, I like to make informed decisions. Decisions made with partial information a lot of times are bad ones. Much like the news on TV, I don't believe everything I hear, but like to have all information available, even if it's from a busybody. Also, in my experience, it is usually fairly easy to a) tell who blabs lies all the time based on rumors, not facts, and b) it usually is not too hard to figure out if the story is full of holes....

Just my $0.02.

MAJ Arkay said...

Um, LawMom, if both the Italians killed themselves, just exactly how do we know about the "friend" who went to the younger husband? Did she stand up and take responsibility by admitting what she'd done? That is so not in the character of a typical busybody...

Neither extreme example is a reason to call an idea a bad one, simply because those on the fringe may go over the edge. They're already in danger of doing same.

Still, while felony not minding one's own business has a certain attraction, my libertarian instincts don't want yet another perceived encroachment upon my individual liberties. It's a little too close to Homeowner Association-itis for my comfort.

Anonymous said...

Terminal stupidity is a self-limiting disease.

Terminal stupidity: Speeding on the highway in the rain with bald tires and no seat belt.
Criminal stupidity: doing it with your kids in the car.

Anonymous said...

I completely symathize with "Shannon".

I was slandered myself by my nutball sister-in-law when I became pregnant. She told her three daughters, my nieces, that the only reason I was having a baby with her brother was so that I could kill and eat it. In a Satanic ritual.

I don't know why she thought I would go through nine months of pregnancy and the pain of labor and delivery, when, if I was really half as depraved as she thought I was, I could just steal somone else's baby.

So, apparently, I was a murdering, infanticidal, cannibalistic Satan worshipper. But kidnapping, yeah, that's where I drew the line.

Witch in the Buckeye State

P.S. My daughter is 11 now, and still hasn't been served up for dinner.

Alisa said...

Yeah, okay, you posted this a couple of years ago. But I just read it, and it reminded me of a story. I haven't been able to verify whether it's true or not, but if it isn't it ought to be.

http://www.turoks.net/Cabana/AsatruKKK.htm

Have fun, Mr. Dog. :)

Wombat said...

Okay, I'm several days (years) late and maybe several dollars short, but what the heck. First off, I don't get the impression that reporting abuse or crimes would be punishable under the proposed statutes. Further, I really like the idea. Just because you know or think you know something doesn't mean you need to make sure anybody else does. I have really acute hearing, so I hear a great deal more than others realize. I never try to eavesdrop, but sometimes I can't help but overhear stuff. Unless it involves crime or abuse, I do not repeat any of it. Unfortunately, I have also experienced what happens when some busybody thinks they know something. All that is being proposed is that folks don't shoot their mouths off without being sure of their aim, their target, and what is beyond it. Words can damage lives just as surely as bullets (I know, nobody was ever talked to death literally, but loose lips sink ships).