Archive for the 'overcriminalization' Category

Major Announcement on New Gun Laws

Posted by on Mar 21 2013 | Growth of Government, guns, overcriminalization, PPC, Second Amendment

“Over? Did you say it’s ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now!” – John Blutarsky

Yesterday Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper confirmed Colorado as a pawn in a national game of gun control. He signed three anti-Second Amendment bills into law, making our previously liberty-loving state into the nation’s Hate State against gun owners.

Independence Institute was the lead voice educating policy makers and the Governor himself of the dangers and sloppiness of these bills. They wouldn’t listen to us. They wouldn’t listen to Coloradans. They instead listened to Mayor Bloomberg and Joe Biden, who called legislators and Hickenlooper personally.

We urged the Governor to veto the bills and send them back to the legislature for re-drafting. Our Second Amendment expert, Dave Kopel, told him that the magazine ban is horribly miswritten, with numerous constitutional problems, even beyond the core Second Amendment issue.

But the national anti-gun interests have more influence in Colorado than we citizens. Now the sale or transfer of nearly every gun magazine in Colorado will be crime, because almost every single magazine is “readily convertible” to hold more than 15 rounds. Watch our video on this here.

And due to the must “maintain continuous possession” clause to grandfather in previously owned mags, I won’t be able to teach my daughter how to shoot my gun – she cannot hold the gun that uses the original magazine. My brother, a volunteer gun range officer will not be able to assist a gun student with a malfunctioning gun. As he says in this op-ed, he will have to choose between keeping the gun range safe or becoming a criminal. A husband cannot lend his gun with an original magazine to his wife. Watch our video on this here.

All 62 County Sheriffs vigorously opposed these bills. Many say that won’t enforce them when they become law because they cannot be enforced.

We have said for years that Colorado is the national test case to turn a freedom-loving western state into a progressive strong hold. Today Colorado citizens learned the hard way that elections have consequences. Today our Governor cemented our path to become California.

But I guarantee you, this fight has just begun. We at Independence love Colorado and love liberty too much to just sit back and watch in dismay.

Today I am proud to announce that the Independence Institute will lead the civil rights lawsuit against the State of Colorado to free us from these unconstitutional laws.

Our lawsuit will be based on the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, among other grounds. The lawsuit will be brought on behalf of a large coalition of local and national law enforcement, including many of the Sheriffs who opposed the bills, disability rights organizations, gun safety organizations, civil rights organizations, and others.

Lead attorney in the lawsuit will be Dave Kopel, who is also a Denver University Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law. Kopel served on the U.S. Supreme Court oral argument team which won the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. His briefs and scholarship have been cited by Justices Alito, Breyer, and Stevens, and by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, among others.

This will be a long and expensive legal battle. But that is nothing new to us. We are honored to fight for Freedom, to fight for Colorado. We are honored to fight for you.

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VIDEO: Colorado Magazine Ban: Continuous Possession

Posted by on Mar 18 2013 | guns, Michael Bloomberg, overcriminalization, PPC, Second Amendment

By now I’m sure you’re aware that the magazine ban, Colorado House Bill 1224, sitting on Hickenlooper’s desk will outlaw most magazines in Colorado. Why? Because most magazines are “readily convertible” to hold more than 15 rounds. But did you know about “continuous possession?” This is another dirty little secret hidden inside HB 1224. Watch the video below as I demonstrate how continuous possession works with Amy Oliver Cooke.

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Independence Institute Writers In The News

Posted by on Jun 25 2012 | Corporate Welfare, criminal justice, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, energy, Health Care, overcriminalization, PPC

Plea bargains, corporate welfare, twinkie taxes and fracking are all topics of recently published works by Independence Institute writers.

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, frequent Independence Institute guest author Ari Armstrong examines the consequences to the right of a jury trial from having over 97 percent of Colorado’s criminal convictions be from plea bargains.  Writes Ari:

Colorado criminal statistics for the years 2006 through 2011 show that Colorado prosecutors rely on plea bargains to reach convictions an overwhelming 97.6 percent of the time, according to documents obtained by the Independence Institute through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

According to those documents, only 4,241 felony convictions resulted from a jury trial, or 2.4 percent of the total of 175,015 felony convictions. A total of 6,101 felony cases went to trial, so the conviction rate at trial was 70 percent.

Read the whole thing here.

In the Denver Post, senior fellow Fred Holden and research director Dave Kopel explain that Gaylord style corporate welfare violates the Colorado Constitution.  Fred and Dave ask:

By what authority can the state government take tax money out of your pocket and give it away to a private corporation? The answer is that corporate welfare schemes, such as so-called “public-private partnerships,” flagrantly violate the Colorado Constitution.

Check it out here.

Also in the Denver Post, Health Care Policy Center Director Linda Gorman makes the case that giving government more power to tax and control “bad” food (think twinkie tax) is offensive to liberty.  As Linda notes:

Obesity can impose costs on others, and the obvious solution is to allow people who provide services to charge the obese more when they are more costly to serve.

Full piece is here.

In the current Denver Business Journal, research associate Donovan Schafer reminds us to keep the relative risk of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals, Benzyne in particular, in perspective, finding that:

While Benzyne and other air pollutants shouldn’t be ignored when discussing oil and gas development. it’s important for the public to recognize the estimates and limits set by the EPA represent very small-though perhaps not insignificant-risks, and that these risks are comparable to those associated with automobile emissions, urban living and industrial activities in general.

The piece is behind the DBJ’s subscription wall, but can be read on the Independence Institute energy blog here.

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Colorado Senators Prefer Warantless Federal Raids

Posted by on May 27 2012 | congress, criminal justice, Criminal Law, Economic LIberties, overcriminalization, PPC, Thuggery

Reason magazine’s Mike Riggs reports that the U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 78-15 to table an amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.) to basically demilitarize the Food and Drug Administration. As Riggs describes it Paul’s amendment would have, among other things, “prohibited FDA employees (as well as all other Health and Human Services employees) from carrying weapons and making arrests without warrants.” The amendment would have also added a mens rea, or “guilty mind” requirement for criminal prosecution of laws and regulations the FDA enforces.

Senator Paul’s wholly legitimate beef with overreach and abuse by the FDA comes from armed FDA bureaucrats raiding Amish dairy farms, seizing property and arresting dairy farmers without warrants for selling milk directly from the cow (raw milk).

Both of Colorado’s U.S Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennett voted in favor of tabling the amendment, and thus voted in favor of continuing warrantless raids by militarized FDA bureaucrats on farmers earning a living by engaging in peaceful commerce with willing customers.

Update: While the 15 Senators who voted in favor of due process, the Fourth Amendment and reigning in over-zealous, armed federal bureaucrats were all Republicans, a sharp eyed facebook commenter notes that 28 other Republican Senators from across the country joined with Democrats to create a supermajority in the Senate in favor of warrantless raids by the FDA. Putting Bennett and Udall in poor company indeed.

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Legislature Restrains Its Compulsion to Overcriminalize Colorado

Posted by on May 12 2011 | criminal justice, overcriminalization, PPC

The Colorado legislature this year took a modest, but welcome step towards restraining its own penchant for overcriminalizing the economic and personal lives of Coloradans. Let’s hope it makes us all a little bit freer from an often overweening state.

House Bill 11-1239 came out of recommendations by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ), passed 64-1 in the Colorado House of Representatives and unanimously in the Colorado Senate, and has been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper.

A meatier bill might require that every time a legislator seeks to create or expand a punishable offense, they would have to recommend an existing law to pare back or repeal, but it is hard to imagine that actually passing. As it is, HB 1239 requires that the fiscal note for any piece of legislation that creates a new crime, or makes changes to the punishment or elements of an existing offense, must include additional information, including:

a) A description of the elements of the proposed new crime, or a description of the new, amended, or additional elements of an existing crime;

(b) an analysis of whether the new crime, or changes to an existing crime, may be charged under current Colorado law;

(c) a comparison of the proposed crime classification to similar types of offenses; and

(d) an analysis of the current and anticipated future prevalence of the behavior that the proposed new crime, or changes to an existing crime, intends to address.

In this podcast interview, Colorado State Public Defender and CCJJ voting member Doug Wilson notes that in Colorado there are numerous “boutique” crimes (where legislators passed criminal offenses already covered by other criminal offenses) that “really complicated the criminal code.” Wilson continues that the idea behind HB 1239 is that when a legislator introduces a bill, there will be information provided that shows whether that bill is necessary, what it would cost to enact the new crime, and if not necessary, what other criminal offenses already cover that conduct.

Such “boutique” crimes complicating the criminal code is an excellent example of overcriminalization.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s website:

“Overcriminalization” describes the trend in America — and particularly in Congress — to use the criminal law to “solve” every problem, punish every mistake (instead of making proper use of civil penalties), and coerce Americans into conforming their behavior to satisfy social engineering objectives.

Overcriminalization is also a trend at the state level. As I wrote in a 2005 Independence Institute issue paper on overcriminalization in Colorado:

Colorado currently has some 30,000 laws filling more than 50 volumes of the Colorado Revised Statutes, both criminal and regulatory. Every session, the Colorado General
Assembly passes hundreds of new laws for government to enforce and citizens to both understand and obey. Aside from the sheer number of laws, the definition of what constitutes a criminal act has changed; often the legislature actually creates new crimes, and thus, new criminals, where no inherent criminality exists. Overcriminalization detracts from the seriousness of the law. This in turn breeds a lack of respect for the law.

Overcriminalization is also a step backwards from the concept of clear and simple rules — essential for dynamic and vibrant economic activity — so that both individuals and businesses can be reasonably sure as to the legality of activity in which they are engaging.

To be sure, the legislature is still free to pass redundant, convoluted and even unnecessary laws that we are all obligated to both understand and follow, but hopefully HB 1239 will provide the information needed to at least slow the growth of overcriminalization in Colorado.

(Originally published in the Huffpost Denver)

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