When society is confronted with the latest social ills, state legislatures are quick to offer criminal remedies and sanctions to satisfy the public outcry. These laws are often rushed to meet the demands of constituents, and their ramifications are never thoroughly contemplated. Defense attorneys often warn of the “slippery slope” that each new, rushed, and vague law creates. Our arguments toward a “slippery slope” are often dismissed as unreasonable by the public and prosecutors.
Currently, two new areas of new crimes that were created to remedy societal issues are being prosecuted far beyond their intended purpose. We are now prosecuting teenagers with child pornography charges for taking explicit photos of themselves. As a result, normal teenagers in need of help and directions are being met with Felony convictions, life long destruction of their lives, potential megan’s law status, and a child molester stigma.
Child Pornography is a bane on society. Prosecutors are just in vigorously attacking those who create and distribute child pornography. These statues were intended to prosecute dangerous criminals, lurking and preying on innocents, who take advantage and manipulate children. They were not intended to prosecute over zealous teenagers making poor life choices. Unfortunately, the laws created are often so vague that total discretion lies within the reasonableness of the prosecutor as to when to apply them. Common sense and reasonableness often fade in the wake of publicity and political opportunity.
The second area where prosecutors are taking the law too far is the new Drug Delivery Resulting in Death crimes. These statutes were intended to prosecute drug dealers who distribute their product without consequence. The common thug on street corners peddling their wares. Often, prosecuting those criminals becomes difficult to establish chain of custody back to the original dealer. Instead, Prosecutors have set their sights on drug users who share drugs together.
In Pennsylvania, it is now a first degree felony (the same grading as child molesters, rapists, and attempted murderers) and a potential 40 years in prison for drug users to share drugs with each other, and one of the users dies as a result. Again, an unintended consequence under the law, never intended by the legislature, but vigorously pursued by prosecutors.
Legislatures provide the tools for prosecutors to attack societal problems. Often, these tools are rushed and never fully explored prior to their passage. It is the duty of the prosecutor to apply reasonableness and common sense in their use of these tools when deciding who to prosecute and why