Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Crime and Citizens, Presumptions, Preconceptions, and Trust

(Observations in the "Presumed Innocent" series)

Citizens of the United States come from many places and cultures around the world, as do the temporary visitors to this nation. Citizens of some nations may share concepts of the presumption of innocence until being proven guilty similar to those held in the United States. Citizens of other nations (including some assumed to be emerging democracies, with constitutions ensuring rights and codes of law upholding balanced security and freedom) may live in states which presume the guilt or guilt by association of people connected with a criminal event, until (or unless) they are able to prove their innocence.

Even where presumptions of guilt, or of innocence, might be more widely standardized, preconceptions, and, therefore, individually-held, and socially-held definitions of crimes may vary. Moreover, preconceptions of trust, or mistrust, in the legal systems responsible for writing those laws may vary—as will, then, preconceptions of the feasibility or impossibility of inclusion in the process, and probably, therefore, also the resultant opinions in the fairness of the laws.

Preconceptions of trust, or mistrust, in enforcement systems responsible for upholding those laws, defending the population against acts defined as crimes most likely will contribute to the balance of fear and security against which people decide whether or not to come forward as victims of crime, or remain silent. The balancing of fear and security, inclusion or exclusion weigh against accused/defendant’s decisions to assert their innocence of criminal charges, or plead guilty, bargaining for lesser charges (or remain silent). 

In systems where preconceptions cloud the clarity of definitions of crime, cloud the perceptions of those turning to “the law” for restitution, reparation, relief from acts of crime, concepts of culpability and punishment most likely also blur in focus and become vulnerable to corruption. Preconceptions of the balance of fear and security, inclusion or exclusion may empower people or groups to engage in crimes of omission or commission, mala prohibita or mala en se due to confidence in their ability to affect the outcome of any charges, enforcement of law, or disposition of punishment (or absence of punishment).

Differences of culture, locality, preferences sometimes influence those acts which might be defined as mala prohibita, in many locations within the United States, and certainly, also, elsewhere on the planet.  Even if laws are written in such a manner as to ensure that mala en se crimes are defined clearly and equally, that mitigating factors are defined clearly and equally (self-defense in an apparent murder case), and that each detainee is clearly informed of rights prior to arrest and incarceration/disposition of bond, then what balancing of education, comprehension and acceptance of these laws ensure that they might be applicable across the broad social groupings of “humanity” (giving credence to “Universal” concepts of rights—human or earth-as-a-whole)?

It seems concerns that “due process” be addressed are only touching the tip of a very large iceburg.

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