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    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Mark Grisanti's "Punish the Parents Law"

    Well, that was fast. Less than 30 days ago, Mark Grisanti, a republican, won my vote by voting with the will of the people he represented, and, frankly, with the side of righteousness, by voting for marriage equality in New York. It was disgusting that we didn't already have marriage equality, as there have been religions solemnizing marriages that were not approved under New York law for DECADES, and if the state wants to claim it treats religions equally, then the state needs to treat religions equally. I hate to agree with the slippery slope arguments of the crazies opposed to marriage equality, but the next step should be allowing plural marriage-with the same restrictions we place on marriage today, you can't marry relatives, kids, or those who can't consent due to mental deficiency. Healthcare is the problem with that, and must be resolved first, however.

    But this isn't about Heathcare, or plural marriage, this is about how Grisanti has already lost my vote by introducing a bill which would create a reactionary, unthought-out, stupid law, which, if passed, would be found unconstitutional, but would probably injure innocent people first, and would create a system where some lawyer, somewhere (probably in a DA's office) would be placed in the situation of having to either prosecute parents who were put through the hell of something happening to their minor child or to just pick and choose freely who to prosecute and who not to prosecute, which is not how a law should work.

    Grisanti's stupid and reactionary law falls into a broader category of new proposed laws called Caylee's Laws, the problems of which have been discussed by better minds than I here, here and here. There are two specific provisions of Grisanti's bill which could be exploited by people very easy, these two provisions create felonies in two specific instances, one in which a parent or caregiver fails to notify authorities within 24 hours of a young child going missing and one in which someone is found to be "obstructing the location of a missing child."

    On the surface, these may sound like good ideas, and sound laws. However, there are no provisions in the law for situations in which a parent is unable to comply with the law, either through ignorance of the child being missing or other problems and there is no protection for those who might "obstruct the location of a missing child" for very good reasons, such as preventing further child abuse.

    The problem with these felonies is that it takes very little imagination to come up with times where parents, through no fault of their own, could be prosecuted under these laws despite having committed nothing that those of us with half a brain could find fault with. For example:

    People who would have committed felony obstruction of location of a missing child under this law:
    • The woman whose husband raped her daughter, and gave a false name at the hospital she took her daughter to.
    • The woman who fled to a Reservation to keep her abusive husband from her kids, and everyone on the Res who sheltered her, even though her "kidnapping" would later be exonerated.
    • The staff of a shelter who refused to tell an abusive parent where their abused kid is (in the period between getting the abused kid and the authorities denying the parents custody)
    • The staff of an organization who rescues child brides from illegal marriages.
    • The ambulance personnel tending to a kid struck by a car in front of them without first locating the caregivers of the child and telling them where they were going.
    • A homeless shelter taking in a kid off of the streets without contacting the parents of each kid and the authorities.
    • Members of an AA, NA, Alanon or other "anonymous" group who do not report that the child is at a meeting when the caregivers of the child are looking for them.
    Most of these are situations where normal and sane people would not consider the actions of the the people involved to be felonious, but that TECHNICALLY do violate the stupid and ill-conceived law that Grisanti is trying to pass. Note that in those situations in which a child's location is hidden for evil reasons (kidnapping, rape, etc.) those who assist the kidnapper, rapist, etc., are already accessories to a crime, and depending on the situation, are already committing a felony. The "new" crime of "obstruction of location of a missing child" is only needed to either pile on additional sentences for such accessories (which could be accomplished by other laws, or even by using the ones we have) or to prosecute those who've done something that isn't already illegal...including those who would be placed in a position of violating the law if they do nothing, and violating a law if do something...this is one reason why the law would be found unconstitutional. Note that the only people punished under this law who would not already be punished by other laws are the innocent people.

    The other stupid provision of this law is the 24 hour notification period in which a child is missing. As the parent of a no-longer minor child, I can't imagine not contacting the cops if this happened to my kid. Right before I transferred to Temple University, my kid (just past the toddler stage) walked away from my house in Philadelphia during the move, and when I could not find him after a few minutes, I called the cops, who found him a couple blocks away, where he was already talking to a cop saying he'd gotten lost. One of the problems that a two-parent household has that a single parent often doesn't is the assumption on the part of the one parent that the other parent has the kid. That was how my adventurous son (who is now 19) got away from me on that day, and thankfully, nothing bad happened to him (other than scaring himself and his parents) but there are so many terrible situations in which a child goes missing and the parent doesn't know or the parent can't report the information to the authorities. Some of these situations are pretty unlikely, or will only happen to one or two parents a year, but remember that the authorities are not supposed to be picking and choosing who to prosecute, we should all be equal under the law.
    • An entire family is kidnapped, as happened to the Hall family. Under this law, the parents (who are also kidnap victims) are also FELONS for not reporting their kids missing while they themselves were tied up and held at gunpoint.
    • A child is lost while hiking in the Zoar valley with her folks. The child makes it to a ranger station and the cops, but the parents get lost looking for their kid. People get lost in the Zoar Valley all the time, and it regularly takes more than a day to find them. Under this law, the parents are FELONS. Note that the Zoar Valley is an area where a lot of Grisanti's constituents go, and that cell phone service is spotty at best there.
    • A sudden storm blows up while boating on Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, and a boat with a family sinks. Most of the family is swept one way, a kid is swept the other. Cell phone service usually doesn't work at the center of Lake Ontario, and is spotty on Lake Erie. By the time the parents find a place to get a signal, their phone is dead, swamped by the water. It takes the family a total of 26 hours to find a cop, as they come ashore in a park, and have to hike, wet and exhausted, to find a phone. Congratulations, parents, you're felons.
    • A single mom's house is broken into by bad guys. Her phone lines are slashed, and she is left, beaten and bloody, on the floor. The bad guys take her cell phone, her computer, and her kid. Between being unconscious and the time when she was being beaten, and dragging her bloody body out to the highway and being found, she takes 30 hours to tell the cops what happened. She's a victim, but under this law, ALSO A FELON.
    • A soldier comes home from a war to find his wife and kids missing. There is a note from bad guys he's dealt with before. It says that if he doesn't do as they say, his wife and kid die. He knows these terrorists mean it, and doesn't tell the cops his wife and kid have been kidnapped. As soon as he gets his wife and kids back, he calls the cops. He is of course promptly arrested, as is his wife. Both are felons, for not telling the cops the kids were missing.
    • A sudden snowstorm affects an Amish community. It is only after the snow has stopped falling that a family is able to ascertain that their kid, who they thought was with their parents, is, in fact, missing, and not with its grandparents. It takes over 24 hours to contact the authorities, so the family are felons.
    • An earthquake levels a building. The parents assume kids are trapped on one side, they are on another. The parents, trapped under rubble, are unable to report that their kids are missing. When they dig the parents out two days later, they slap them in handcuffs at the hospital, because they didn't report the kids missing.
    Most of these situations are examples where prosecuting the parents under the law is stupid, or even evil. The law should not discriminate, and no law should be selectively used against those who we agree "deserve" to be punished and not against those who do not. I am not a lawyer, and I can see the holes in this stupid law, so imagine the holes a lawyer, trained to find holes, would find. We would end up with a law that would only be used against those with a crappy defense team, or worse.

    This law will be found unconstitutional as written, unless it differs DRASTICALLY from the NY Senate's own press release. To waste the taxpayers' time with a law that will be passed only to be struck down is either stupid, in which case Grisanti does not deserve my vote, or it is a manipulative, basely political attempt to set himself up as the arbiter of justice for families when the nasty liberals who rightfully strike this stupid bill down do what a just justice system requires. As with stupidity, Grisanti doesn't deserve my vote if he's manipulating the system in this manner.

    I want to believe that Grisanti is just thinking with his gut and not his mind, but his vote on gay marriage shows he's capable of doing what's right by the law when his gut is against it. I don't think you can be rational about laws one day and irrational the other day, and ideally he thought about this law for more than a minute or two and can see these holes, which leads to him doing it for base political reasons, playing games with the taxpayer's time...and that cost him the votes of my family, and frankly, I hope it costs him the votes of those who read this.

    A justice system should be just. Ask yourself who this law punishes that isn't already punished by laws we have. Is this law about improving our lives and our culture, or is it a reaction to a bunch of people on facebook who didn't like a verdict that Grisanti has no say on, anyway?

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