What you don’t know can hurt you

posted by
June 21, 2011
by Harvey Silverglate  
Posted in Commentary

"The Soviet Union enacted an infamous law in 1922 that criminalized 'hooliganism.' The crime was in the eye of the beholder, the beholder of consequence being the Soviet secret police. Because it was impossible for dissidents to know in advance whether they were violating this prohibition, they were always subject to arrest and imprisonment, all ostensibly according to law. In the United States, we have legal safeguards against Soviet-style social controls, not least of which is the judicial branch’s ability to nullify laws so vague that they violate the right to due process. Yet far too many federal laws leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment." (for publication 07/11)


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