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Letter of the Law vs. Spirit of the Law

KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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1/14/2015 12:53:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Which should be the metric used by courts (judges or jury) when deciding the law has been breached?

Some examples:
Not to long ago, a man was caught taking upskirt photos on a bus/subway in Massechutses. The law on the books stated specifically that taking nude photos of people in public without their consent was illegal. These pictures were not nude, as the women were wearing underwear.
The supreme court said the law was not broken due to the wording of the law.

I agreed with this ruling, because a citizen looks at the laws to decide what they can and cannot do. Regardless of this man's nefarious motivations, there was no reason to believe he broke the law at the time. It was the legislator's fault for not updating the law with the times.
Think if you broke the law because you were a house painter who only painted outside, and thus, thought the laws regulating inside home painter or other laws that dealt with in-home contractors did not apply.

However, there was another case I was present for.
The letter of the law was that a registered sex offender cannot spend the night outside of his own home, without notification of parole officer. This man did just that, at a college campus on a fairly regular basis. However, he did not sleep, he had no toiletries or clothes, he was with his girlfriend, awake, and went home in the morning to sleep. He did not "spend the night" in the conventional sense, as what he did was no different than most people do, only the hours were shifted, due to his working nights.
The judge (no jury, understandably) agreed that this was not a violation, since the spirit of the law was not broken simply because it was 10PM - 6AM vs. 10 AM - 6PM. I also agree.

So, I am not sure which should reign supreme: the letter or the spirit?
Perhaps it is the one that offers the most liberty to the accused.
KhaosMage
Posts: 1,475
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1/15/2015 8:47:41 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
No thoughts, huh?
I'd have thought there would be, given how people blast the tax code for loopholes.
AnDoctuir
Posts: 11,060
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1/15/2015 1:19:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
You're kind of an autist/robot when it comes to this sort of thing, Khaos. Solid rules/coding as a foundation for a society. I would lean more towards the spirit of the law than the letter, personally.
YYW
Posts: 36,296
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1/15/2015 8:22:26 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
As it applies to contracts, and criminal law, the only time where I am a "spirit of the law" kind of guy is when the law is ambiguous (and it often is) or the results that strict enforcement of the law would produce are inconsistent with reasonable standards of justice.

With everything else, I'll make the strongest argument I can to get the result I want -whether it's a "letter" or "spirit" argument.
Tsar of DDO
Chuz-Life
Posts: 1,789
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1/16/2015 12:26:03 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/14/2015 12:53:35 PM, KhaosMage wrote:
Which should be the metric used by courts (judges or jury) when deciding the law has been breached?

<great post snipped for bevity>

. . . So, I am not sure which should reign supreme: the letter or the spirit?
Perhaps it is the one that offers the most liberty to the accused.

Why does it have to be either or and not both when considered together?
"Sooner or later, the Supreme Court of the Unites States is going to have explain how a 'child in the womb' is a person enough to be recognized as a MURDER victim under our fetal homicide laws but how they are not persons enough to qualify for any other Constitutional protections" ~ Chuz Life

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Ore_Ele
Posts: 25,980
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1/16/2015 12:36:27 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm a "spirit of the law" person. Life is too complex for a law to be 100% all encompassing. You either have the law be simplified that it can be exploited (as the examples provided) or it is sooo complex to avoid the loop holes that no one can understand it. As such, this is when our human reasoning needs to be implemented with the spirit of the law.
"Wanting Red Rhino Pill to have gender"
darkkermit
Posts: 11,204
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1/16/2015 1:03:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
A good defense lawyer uses both.

Also I can gurantee some girls wears thongs or commando under skirts so wouldn't it be considered nudity since the butt cheeckes are showing? But that's a crappy prosecutor on their part.
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Juan_Pablo
Posts: 2,052
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1/16/2015 1:15:52 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/14/2015 12:53:35 PM, KhaosMage wrote:
Which should be the metric used by courts (judges or jury) when deciding the law has been breached?

Some examples:
Not to long ago, a man was caught taking upskirt photos on a bus/subway in Massechutses. The law on the books stated specifically that taking nude photos of people in public without their consent was illegal. These pictures were not nude, as the women were wearing underwear.
The supreme court said the law was not broken due to the wording of the law.

I agreed with this ruling, because a citizen looks at the laws to decide what they can and cannot do. Regardless of this man's nefarious motivations, there was no reason to believe he broke the law at the time. It was the legislator's fault for not updating the law with the times.
Think if you broke the law because you were a house painter who only painted outside, and thus, thought the laws regulating inside home painter or other laws that dealt with in-home contractors did not apply.

However, there was another case I was present for.
The letter of the law was that a registered sex offender cannot spend the night outside of his own home, without notification of parole officer. This man did just that, at a college campus on a fairly regular basis. However, he did not sleep, he had no toiletries or clothes, he was with his girlfriend, awake, and went home in the morning to sleep. He did not "spend the night" in the conventional sense, as what he did was no different than most people do, only the hours were shifted, due to his working nights.
The judge (no jury, understandably) agreed that this was not a violation, since the spirit of the law was not broken simply because it was 10PM - 6AM vs. 10 AM - 6PM. I also agree.

So, I am not sure which should reign supreme: the letter or the spirit?
Perhaps it is the one that offers the most liberty to the accused.

If I were the Judge I would have leaned in favor of conviction, probably ruling that way. Though the man did not take "nude" pictures of the women, he did take pictures of women's private regions in their underwear, without their consent. Underwear is not something females expose in public. At the very least, this man should have been prosecuted for some kind of inappropriate conduct. A fine would have been the minimal sentence I would have given him.