Newbie with a question or two


October 26, 2004, 07:33 PM

I have been lurking around here for a few months after being referred to this place from Very interesting discussions.

I have a question for everyone new and old regarding Jury Nullification. If this is a valid tactic to get laws changed, or at least draw attention to them, is there such a thing as Police Nullification? That is to say, are there laws that police in general do not enforce because they feel they are wrong? I read recently that in Alabama, laws regarding segregation are still on the books. Obviously, these are ignored. Are there any other examples? If there are any police officers or attorneys here, how do you feel about this? Does this happen on an organized basis, or is it something that is up to individual officer discression?



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October 26, 2004, 08:04 PM
Welcome TrentR

Yes, Jury Nullification is a valid tactic. Worked for the abolishonists prior the Civil War/War 'Tween the States/War of Northern Aggression, and can still work today. I don't know about Police Nullification, and frankly I don't want the local police (or Federal ones for that matter) to be deciding which laws they will enforce and which they will not.

El Tejon
October 26, 2004, 11:05 PM
Welcome to THR.:)

I'm a tilecrawler. Police Nullification happens every day.

Standing Wolf
October 26, 2004, 11:17 PM
There are plenty of jurisdictions in which some laws are and other laws aren't enforced. Lots of cities have after hours drinking establishments, for example, and plenty of so-called "vice" laws are often unenforced or selectively enforced.

Baba Louie
October 27, 2004, 01:22 AM
Wasn't the original Gun Control law thing a "Police Nullification" kinda thing where some people were (or could/would be) rousted for possession of a firearm when others maybe weren't? (Rhetorical question... another time, another America... we all know the answer)

The Police kinda have to be selective in which laws they enforce, else we'd all end up in jail for one thing or another, having so many laws on the books. What else can city, county, state and federal elected officials do to while away the hours except come up with new laws?

We're a target rich environment for Police. And Attornies. :)

Jeff White
October 27, 2004, 04:24 AM
Sindawe said;
I don't know about Police Nullification, and frankly I don't want the local police (or Federal ones for that matter) to be deciding which laws they will enforce and which they will not.

Surely you jest??? :what: You can't really mean that. Do you have any idea what laws are on the books all the way up from city and county ordinances to the United States Code? Many common everyday things you do are most likely in violation of some law or code. Say it's a nice cool Saturday evening in the Fall, you go out back and build a fire, have the kids roast some hot dogs, make some smores..drink some apple cider and tell ghost most municipalities you've probably broken at least one law that would subject you to a fine, just for having the fire in your yard. Get out the local building codes and see how much you could be fined for you last home improvement project. We won't even get into the laws on pets....Many municipalities have public nusiance laws on the books that are so vague they could mean anything an officer wanted them to mean. You really should think about what you're asking for before you say you want all the laws enforced.

Police (and prosecutoral) nullification is about the only way we have any community standards in law enforcement. It's one of the reasons we don't want a national police force. Do you want someone in Washington deciding how the law should be enforced where you live? Would you like to pay a fine every time you fail to notice the rear license plate light is burned out on your car? How about if the police caught your 19 year old parked by the lake with a couple friends and a 12 pack of beer? Want him arrested or would you prefer he be brought home so you can deal with it? Considering how many states have zero tolerance laws about things like that now, it could ruin his life for a couple years with fines, loss of driving privledges, mandatory drug and alcohol counselling...Many of these zero tolerance statues are administrative in nature, so there really isn't a day in court, maybe a hearing before an administrative officer from whatever agency issues drivers licenses.

There is discretion built into the system for a reason. The lawmakers can't possibly anticipate every possible circumstance a law they write could be applied to. So everyone, from the cop on the beat, to the Supreme Court Justice has the duty to weigh the law against the circumstances and see if the circumstances fit the legislative intent and if society will truley be served by them taking action.


October 27, 2004, 01:55 PM
Jury nullification is valid, but I would not call it a "tactic," and it doesn't get laws changed.

The principle is that (although most judges won't tell you this) a jury is intended un the Constitution to be the triers (the deciders) of both the facts of a case AND OF THE LAW. Most judges, however, tell juries that they (the judge) makes all the decisions on how to interpret the law.

If you are a joror and you think a defendant has been charged under a screwball law, you as a juror have a right and even a duty to vote not guilty even if the defendant did, in fact, break the screwball law. In essence, you are nullifying the screwball law.

But you're not changing the law. It's still on the books. Unless the entire jury votes to acquit, all you'll accomplish is a hung jury and the defendant could be tried again for the same charge in front of a new jury. Jury nullification can change laws only if enough juries nullify the same stupid law, to the point where judges and prosecutors throw in the towel and ask the legislature to get rid of it.

October 27, 2004, 05:52 PM
I have seen detaild analysis of what Jury nolification could do. It turns out that if about 5% of the jury pool desides to nolify a particular law it becomes almost impossible to get a conviction under that law.

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