When Promises Are Inadequate

These are two amazing articles about a recent legal decision in Arizona that criminalizes any contact between and adult and the genitalia of a person under 15.  Any.  Which means that a parent or other legal guardian changing their child’s diaper could be convicted of child molestation.

The first article explains the initial decision and why it is flawed logic.  It criminalizes tacitly un-criminal activity (changing a diaper), and responds to objections to this by stating that anyone accused of such a crime under such conditions can simply defend their innocence in court by demonstrating there was no sexual motivation in the encounter.  The burden of guilt is now assumed in any such situation, and innocence must be proven otherwise, rather than the American judicial tradition of the opposite – assumption of innocence unless guilt can be proven.

The second article further elaborates on why this legal decision is a bad one.  A Maricopa County Attorney issued a press release objecting to the media coverage of the decision, defending it with the promise that no innocent parent would ever be prosecuted by his office.  Unfortunately, promises are not the binding law, and prosecutors come and go.  By creating a massive new area of guilt, parents are placed in a dangerous predicament where their normal activities of caring for their child could be misinterpreted by an ill-informed or malicious outside party, and the parents would suffer separation from their children, imprisonment, and prolonged legal battles and fees just in order to maintain their innocence.

Law is law.  If it makes something illegal, we need to carefully understand whether what is now termed illegal is actually something that should be illegal.  Otherwise, we allow ourselves to inadvertently be placed in a position where we could be prosecuted for something completely innocuous.


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