1)The assumption that all people know all things is a myth. In regards to criminal law, it is believed that people know only fragments about the law and its contents. For example, I have been enforcing the law for approximately 20 years, and feel I have a good understanding of criminal law but only the laws I regularly enforce. As legislation adds criminal laws each year, it is very hard to keep up with the Amendments as well as new laws. I believe the public’s education unless researched, comes from the entertainment world. In the movies and on television writers and producers skirt the facts of criminal law to be informative enough without damaging the entertainment element. It’s true criminal law sources are abundant but if the average person does not know how to research them they will often times leave with only an assumption of the right or wrong answers.
I think one of the reasons people do not know about certain laws, such as the Castle Doctrine Law is their unwillingness to research the issues, or they believe friends because they sound convincing, or they assume they know the facts through their own ignorance. The Castle Doctrine Law is a dangerous law in my opinion. It offers protection but through limited means and gives permission to those who are eager to have a firearm in all areas of their lives. Also, regarding these types of laws, the matter-of-law versus the matter-of-fact is a good example. I believe the public can be excused by the matter of fact law. This information is generally not provided unless researched to find the exact rules of legislation. The matter-of-law is more in line with the general public, which acknowledges they knew committing a crime was wrong but did not know the intensity of the facts.
A 2013 study examined the Castle Doctrine Law and its effects on violent crime. The study revealed no real evidence that would lead to a reduction in violent crimes but did show an increase in the murder rate in states that had adopted the legislation (Wallace, 2014). The common law principle of castle doctrine says that individuals have the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves against an intruder in their home (Levin, 2010).
The Trayvon Martin incident helped bring the Stand Your Ground Law, Castle Doctrine Law, and laws like it to the forefront. I believe the Castle Doctrine Law and laws like it open the door to those that have had little or no training in self-defense with a weapon (Cross, 2013). I believe everyone has the right to protect themselves, their family, and their property, but to allow everyone that owns a gun and possibly very limited training to go armed in the name of protection is misleading.
With the increasing number of criminal laws, citizens cannot be required to know the law and its rules, so, therefore, ignorance of the law is a reality (Rosenzweig, 2013)
2)Earlier this year, while watching an episode of one of my favorite television shows, Live PD, I learned of a law that I had never heard of or even given much thought to how if effects the world. I was watching the show as a Texas police officer was simply giving a warning to a man involved in a minor dispute. However, the man became very unruly and began to repeatedly spit on the sidewalk. The officer asked the man to stop more than once, and warned him that he would be jailed if he did not stop spitting. Seconds later, the show’s caption displayed that it is illegal to spit on sidewalks in the state of Texas. I was completely unaware of this law, decided to google it, and found that Texas law indeed declares spitting on sidewalks as a public nuisance and unlawful (“Spitting in public”, 2020).
As I have engaged in conversation about this ‘fun fact’ with many others, the majority of us thought that this law was awfully petty. However, after further research on this law I found that spitting on a public sidewalk is considered a crime against public health in numerous states. In Massachusetts “whoever expectorates or spits upon any public sidewalk…shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars” (Section 14: spitting). Though a small and minor punishment, the law behind it is important, and remains valid after more than a century, especially with the current pandemic that we are living through.
The prohibition of spitting on sidewalks initially began in New York in 1896 as a means to decrease the spread of viruses and disease, such as Tuberculosis – the leading cause of death in early twentieth century America (Abrams, 2013). By 1910 close to 150 cities across America, numerous smaller towns, and thirteen states had followed New York’s lead, and outlawed spitting in some form (O’Connor, 2015, p. 4). Though this seems to be a minor law to enforce, and there really is no way to control the action of spitting on sidewalks and elsewhere, it is just as important now as it was a century ago. More awareness to this law should be brought before the public again, especially with the spread of Coronavirus and its steady rising cases across the nation.
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