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Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

  • Yes

    Votes: 14 77.8%
  • No

    Votes: 4 22.2%

  • Total voters
    18

radcen

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Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.
 

Risky Thicket

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Plaid shorts maybe. If the guy was locked up for wearing blue jean shorts he should do life without parole regardless.
 

jamesrage

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Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.


Yes he should be released. People shouldn't be in prison or jail for things that are not crimes.
 

specklebang

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He should be released on parole. His conviction should stand since he damaged those who saw him in that era.

His parole contract should have a fashion clause.



Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.
 

Redress

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Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.

No he should not. While something like that should be considered for parole hearings and the like, when you choose to break the law, you choose to accept the potential consequences of breaking that law.
 

instagramsci

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No he should not. While something like that should be considered for parole hearings and the like, when you choose to break the law, you choose to accept the potential consequences of breaking that law.

:lamo

really
 

Spartacus FPV

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No he should not. While something like that should be considered for parole hearings and the like, when you choose to break the law, you choose to accept the potential consequences of breaking that law.

Someone here plays it Lawfully Good, me I prefer Chaotic Good.
 

Spartacus FPV

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Like Minsc? GO FOR THE EYES BOO!

That's one tough rodent
Minsc.jpg
 

Captain Adverse

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No he should not. While something like that should be considered for parole hearings and the like, when you choose to break the law, you choose to accept the potential consequences of breaking that law.

I voted yes, although this issue took some deep thought before responding to .

I had to break it down into two segments: Repeal was because the law was found unconstitutional; Repeal because social attitudes had changed and it was no longer considered a criminal offense.

If the law was repealed because it was deemed unconstitutional, then of course the person should be released immediately and his record completely cleared. That's because his original conviction was a violation of his constitutional rights and he never really committed any wrong-doing in the first place.

The second one is trickier, because even though a law has been repealed after a public change of heart; as Redress states in (his/her?) quote, the person should have been aware at the time that he was committing a criminal offense and in making the choice to do so also agreed to submit to the penalty if caught.

Now we all know that while the dictum "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse" is upheld by courts even though they know there are too many laws for people (even lawyers, judges or cops) to have memorized, it's still done because otherwise every defendant would claim ignorance and expect to be set free.

Still, in my opinion the fact that society has determined this activity is no longer illegal obviates the need to either continue punishment or maintain any record of such criminality. So I believe the person should not only be immediately released from all obligations, but his record should also be completely cleared. Why? Reall we live in an era of data-mining and background check businesses, so we should act to prevent his past from being used against him in this new era where the original act is no longer considered to be criminal.
 
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AliHajiSheik

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All depends. If gay marriage is struck down in a state where it was authorized, would it make sense that the couples were no longer married? A bit of a mess.

Pants? Let him out.
 

molten_dragon

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Yes, it should. People shouldn't be in prison for something that is no longer illegal.
 

Captain Adverse

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All depends. If gay marriage is struck down in a state where it was authorized, would it make sense that the couples were no longer married? A bit of a mess.

Pants? Let him out.

I'm sorry AliHajiSheik, but I believe that you have mis-understood this poll's point. It is discussing the idea of a person convicted of a crime and currently incarcerated when for whatever reason, the law which made the act criminal was then later repealed.

Marriage is not a "criminal" issue, but one involving civil law. A whole different kettle of fish. :)
 

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Laws get repealed because they are in error. Not only should all previous convictions be rescinded,
everyone who was convicted under such a law should have all fines, fees, and restitution charges
refunded, all confiscated property returned, all damaged property repaired or replaced for free,
they should be generously compensated for every minute of time they spent in prison and unable
to work, and their criminal records should be permanently destroyed.
 
Last edited:

Paschendale

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I see no way that society is bettered by keeping such a person still incarcerated when it is no longer trying to stop people from doing what this person was originally incarcerated for. I assume that the heart of this question is whether changing the drug laws should result in releasing drug offenders and yes, it should. Getting rid of a major criminal charge like would have to be accompanied by the rationale, "this shouldn't have been a crime in the first place." And if it shouldn't have been a crime in the first place, people shouldn't still be locked up for it. The same would be true of prostitution or copyright issues if we change those laws (and we should).

So yes, let all the potheads out of jail when marijuana becomes legal. They should never have been there at all.
 

radcen

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I voted yes, although this issue took some deep thought before responding to .

I had to break it down into two segments: Repeal was because the law was found unconstitutional; Repeal because social attitudes had changed and it was no longer considered a criminal offense.

If the law was repealed because it was deemed unconstitutional, then of course the person should be released immediately and his record completely cleared. That's because his original conviction was a violation of his constitutional rights and he never really committed any wrong-doing in the first place.

The second one is trickier, because even though a law has been repealed after a public change of heart; as Redress states in (his/her?) quote, the person should have been aware at the time that he was committing a criminal offense and in making the choice to do so also agreed to submit to the penalty if caught.

Now we all know that while the dictum "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse" is upheld by courts even though they know there are too many laws for people (even lawyers, judges or cops) to have memorized, it's still done because otherwise every defendant would claim ignorance and expect to be set free.

Still, in my opinion the fact that society has determined this activity is no longer illegal obviates the need to either continue punishment or maintain any record of such criminality. So I believe the person should not only be immediately released from all obligations, but his record should also be completely cleared. Why? Reall we live in an era of data-mining and background check businesses, so we should act to prevent his past from being used against him in this new era where the original act is no longer considered to be criminal.
Excellent post and excellent point about differing between constitutional vs societal changes.
 

Rocketman

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I voted no, but might have voted yes had you included that anything that was legal now was made lllegal you would have to pay the piper because of the change
 

Bob Blaylock

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Should repeal of a law void previous convictions?

Scenario: A guy is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison for wearing plaid shorts in public in 1997. Fast forward to 2004, and the law against wearing plaid shorts in public is repealed. The guy is 7 years into his 50 year sentence. But... his wearing of plaid shorts in public is no longer deemed a crime.

Should he be released, or should he serve the remainder of his sentence?

Conceptual question purposely made up so we don't get sidetracked regarding specific real crimes.

I don't think there's an easy, once-size-fits-all yes/no answer to this.

The Constitution prohibits the enactment of an “ex post facto law”. What this means, is that a law cannot be enacted that takes effect before the time it is actually enacted. The best practical example would be passing a law which criminalizes a particular behavior, then prosecuting someone for engaging in that behavior before the law actually took effect. Say the law is enacted and takes effect in 1997, and the guy in the OP's example is convicted based on evidence that he was seen in public wearing plaid shorts in 1996. You cannot legally someone for doing something that was legal at the time that he did it.

I think a case could be argued that the ex post facto principle applies the other way as well; that someone who did something that was illegal at the time he did it is still culpable for that crime even if the act that he committed has since been legalized.

Given that the Constitution as a whole is intended as a restraint on government, and where it covers criminal matters in particular, the Constitution and the body of “common law”*on which it is founded supports a balance much more in favor of one who is accused of a crime than on government to prosecute someone for a crime (hence such things as the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict to convict, and the non-appealability of an “innocent”*verdict); I see plenty of room to limit the use of the ex post facto principle as far as retaining a conviction for an act that ls later legalized.

Perhaps it should be valid for a law which legalizes a previously illegal act to include a provision that explicitly states that any previous convictions for the act being legalized are overturned, and once such a law takes effect, any who have ever been convicted for the now-legalized act would automatically have their conviction removed from the record, and any who are still serving sentences would immediately be released from the remainder thereof. I suppose we'd need the courts to determine whether such a provision can actually be valid, or whether it would still violate the ex post facto principle.

I suppose a away around the ex post facto principle might be for every such bill to include some sort of mass-pardon provision, so that when the President/Governor/Mayor is signing that bill into law, he is also signing a pardon for any convictions that were based on the now-legalized behavior.


As a matter of ethics, I can see it possible to go either way.

I can imagine there being situations where it is harmful at one time to engage in a particular behavior, to the degree that it is reasonable to enact laws against that behavior and to prosecute as criminals those who engage in it; and the situation to later change so that the same behavior is no longer harmful, and it is no longer reasonable to prosecute people as criminals for doing it; but where it is still reasonable for those who were convicted of that behavior when it was illegal to continue to be treated as criminals.

I can also imagine situations where a populace might simply decide that a behavior that was once regarded as harmful never really was, and that not only should people no longer be prosecuted for it, but that those who previously were convicted should no longer bear the stain of that conviction.
 

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Released and compensated for lost time in the workforce.

But which laws should be repealed?
 

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I think a case could be argued that the ex post facto principle applies the other way as well; that someone who did something that was illegal at the time he did it is still culpable for that crime even if the act that he committed has since been legalized.
What is the purpose of the law? If the people are to always be subjugated to the arbitrary whims of corrupt and misguided lawmakers, only then can the case be made that anyone who brakes a law remains eternally culpable for it. But if the purpose of the law is to ensure maximum liberty by prohibiting only actions of force and fraud and by limiting certain freedoms to the extent necessary to prevent mutual infringement, then nobody is obligated to follow any laws that do otherwise and no case can be made that anyone is culpable for what should never have been a crime in the first place.
 
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Bob Blaylock

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·
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I can imagine there being situations where it is harmful at one time to engage in a particular behavior, to the degree that it is reasonable to enact laws against that behavior and to prosecute as criminals those who engage in it; and the situation to later change so that the same behavior is no longer harmful, and it is no longer reasonable to prosecute people as criminals for doing it; but where it is still reasonable for those who were convicted of that behavior when it was illegal to continue to be treated as criminals.

What is the purpose of the law? If the people are to always be subjugated to the arbitrary whims of corrupt and misguided lawmakers, only then can the case be made that anyone who brakes a law remains eternally culpable for it. But if the purpose of the law is to ensure maximum liberty by prohibiting only actions of force and fraud and by limiting certain freedoms to the extent necessary to prevent mutual infringement, then nobody is obligated to follow any laws that do otherwise.

I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.
 

SapphireSpire

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I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.
I never said anything should ever be blindly assumed. It's a matter of moral common sense. What you describe is not a case where the laws would be repealed but where special clauses of existing laws only take effect under special circumstances. Anyone convicted then would still be culpable after the circumstances have improved because the law would still exist even if it no longer applies. That's not the same as when a law is repealed. When the legislature repeals a law, or it's stuck down by the SC, it means the law is unjust and should never have existed in the first place, which means it was wrong to convict anyone under it.
 

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Once a person spends a long time in jail/prison, there's nothing you can do about the wreckage. It changes a person and those changes can't be undone. You can give them the world, but you can't give back the time or memories associated with incarceration.

I only said yes because I think it would be fair, but I don't think it would do a bit of good for most people in that situation. Some people can overcome the experience. I would say a high percentage would not.
 

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Morally: yes.

Legally: My understanding is that repeal of law does not automatically result in the release of convicts for that offense. The legislators would have to pass a bill specifying release for the convicts or the governor/president could offer pardons.
 

radcen

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I don't think it can always be blindly assumed that because something that was once illegal is now illegal, that those who were prosecuted for doing it while it was illegal should no longer be culpable.

It's difficult to think of a good example, and this is the best I can come up with…

Suppose that there comes to be a severe shortage of some vital resource, that everyone needs; and that laws are enacted to require certain practices regarding conservation, rationing, and fair distribution of this resource, and which make it a crime to waste this resource or to hog more than one's fair share thereof.

Now if later, this resource again becomes abundant, and there is no longer any need to ration or conserve it, then the laws covering this should rightly be repealed; and nobody should thereafter be prosecuted for wasting or hogging this resource. But in such a situation, I would have to say that those who were convicted of crimes that involved wasting or hogging this resource while it was scarce would still remain just as culpable. They were convicted of actions that were harmful and illegal when they took them, even if these same actions, if committed now, no longer would be harmful or illegal.

That's not a bad argument. Not sure it changes my mind, but it's worthy of consideration.
 
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