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What Happens When There Is Crime With No Consequences?

Well, actually, there are consequences.  Only not to the criminal; instead to the next person he harms or kills.  In this case, it was a beautiful girl named Stephany Flores.

Just as the wrongful conviction and punishment of the innocent is a grievous loss, so is the failure to convict and punish the guilty.  Joran van der Sloot murdered Natalee Holloway a few years back, but escaped courtesy of a bumbling system of justice. Another human being with hopes and dreams and  --  once  --  a future, paid the price when he walked away.

This is the unfortunate fact our friends on the other side seem unable or unwilling to grasp:  Because every criminal justice system is created by human beings, every one of them will err.  Period.  The only way to insure never punishing the innocent is to never punish anyone. That will have very ugly consequences, consequences that won't disappear simply because we refuse to look at them.

For the subject matter discussed on this blog, the sole question adult life permits is what tradeoff's we should seek between tilting the rules of criminal procedure a little more toward the prosecution or a little more toward the defense. But the idea that we'll achieve Sweetness and Light if we just keep tilting them toward the defense is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense. As the short life of of Ms. Flores attests, someone, often without the means to defend herself, will wind up paying the price for our obtusely proud but morally bankrupt preening.


Hello Mr. Otis,

Van der Sloot is serving time for Flores. Furthermore, he will be prosecuted for fraud, in the USA, after his release; and they don't have a body in the Holloway case. How much do you have to lean to the prosecution when you don't have the primary evidence, the body, that indicates a murder occurred.

With regard to your broader question, every American, is factually guilty of several crimes a day. The federal, state and municipal codes are so choked with criminal statutes that it is impossible not to break some law, somewhere, all of the time. There are no consequences for this widespread criminal activity so the evidence indicates that "when there is crime with no consequences", everything works out just fine.

jardinero --

1. If you think van der Sloot didn't kill Natalee Holloway, there is nothing I can do to dissuade you. You might also think that OJ is innocent, and indeed, he was acquitted. But I can't name a single serious person who thinks he didn't do it.

2. Although doubting van der Sloot's guilt, you assert, emphatically and without qualification, that "every American is factually guilty of several crimes a day."

I will not ask you to back that up as stated. I will ask you, however, to back it up with respect to one one-zillionth of the population. Specifically, I'd like you to name the crimes that you, I, your best friend and Vice President Biden committed today. And no, being a windbag is not a crime.

Hello Mr. Otis,

I believe that Holloway is dead and that van der Sloot did kill Holloway. There is no murder without a body or witnesses to the crime.

I exceeded the speed limit at least once today, failed to signal once and did not follow the lawful method for backing out of a driveway. I imagine that you have done the same. I can't vouch for the Vice President.


To my knowledge, neither a body nor a witness is mandatory for a murder conviction in most jurisdictions. Obviously, a conviction is much easier with them.

None of your examples are crimes, just traffic infractions (not the same).

I also drove 7% above the speed limit today, but that is not a crime. California long ago distinguished "infractions" from misdemeanors and some time back made infractions noncriminal matters. I recommend that change to other states that have not yet adopted it.

Far too many actions are defined as "crimes" that shouldn't be, but that is no reason not to vigorously prosecute the evil people who commit horrible acts that every sensible person agrees are crimes and serious ones. Murder is at the top of the list.

Whether van der Sloot could have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt to have murdered Natalie Holloway is a question on which reasonable people can differ.

jardeniro --

1. I cannot agree. There is a murder when an adult of sound mind kills another human being with malicious intent, which is exactly what van der Sloot did to Ms. Holloway, whether or not it's been proved in court or ever will be. Reality exists independently of adjudication.

2. Good try, but not quite there. None of the things you did was a CRIME, which is what we're talking about. A crime is either a felony or a misdemeanor. What you did are infractions or violations, not crimes.

But, yes, I do all of them, for sure.

Hello All,

My point about Holloway was that there was nothing the police or prosecution could do to secure a conviction. Mr. Otis, brings up the balancing act in the rules of criminal procedure and how much one should tip the rules one way or another. The Holloway case is a bad example to use, because there is just no amount of tipping towards the prosecution that would have helped convict van der Sloot.

To those who think traffic laws are not laws, try telling that to the next cop or judge when you get pulled over. Try resisting when you get pulled over. So yes, even if you violate a traffic law when no one is looking, then you are factually guilty of a crime. I say, "factually guilty", because that is a favorite term of art for Mr. Otis. I include it for his edification.

No one said traffic laws are not laws. We were distinguishing infractions from crimes. (Three comments posted nearly simultaneously making the same point may be a record, BTW.)

However, whether "infractions" are "crimes" or not varies by jurisdiction.

The failure to prosecute Van Der Sloot is a problem for the Dutch legal system so I think all the discourse is kind of the mark here.


Whether your list is a list of crimes or infractions is almost irrelevant. Your original claim was that Americans break several laws per day because there are so many that we cannot keep track of. However, is there anyone who does not know that speeding, failing to signal, and resisting a police officer are illegal whether criminal or not?

The main point is that it's blinkered and dangerous thinking to believe that the system should be pushed so far in the defendant's favor that the risk of convicting the innocent essentially vanishes.

Once that happens, the likelihood of wrongfully freeing the guilty will increase, and when we free more guilty men, the victimization -- and in some instances the murder -- of innocent people will increase.

This is a huge moral and economic cost the other side often simply refuses to acknowledge, much less account for.

TarlsQtr --

In addition to what you note, jardinero's point loses all its force by the examples he employs, even if those examples denote "crimes" instead of "infractions."

His point was that we have such a massive and tangled web of a laws that essentially everyone is at risk of Punishment At The Will Of The State. But when what "proves" this is that you can get a $50 ticket (or whatever) for violating some perfectly sensible rule about safe driving, the examples expose as silly the argument in whose behalf they were enlisted.

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