Old laws

Our legal system seems to have a problem which does not seem to be being addressed in any effective manner: Laws are enacted (put on the books) on a regular basis, but they are not re-examined for relevance on  a regular basis.  This means that laws once put on the books tend to stay on the books, no matter how ridiculous they are.

We've all heard of crazy out-dated laws such as:

It is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket on Sunday in Georgia.

A fine of $25 can be levied for flirting in New York. This old law specifically prohibits men from turning around on any city street and looking "at a woman in that way." A second conviction for a crime of this magnitude calls for the violating male to be forced to wear a "pair of horse-blinders" wherever and whenever he goes outside for a stroll.

It is illegal to drink a beer while sitting on your front porch (a 78 year old man was cited for this recently)

There are also slightly less obvious laws:

In California if you carry a handgun around, it's a misdemeanor.  If you carry around two sticks with a short length of chain or rope linking them, it's a felony!  (well, just think of the damage you could do with two sticks as opposed to a gun – of course sticks are more dangerous.  Sheesh!)

And some laws are right and true and make perfect sense to keep:

In California, A city ordinance states that a $500 fine will be given to anyone who detonates a nuclear device within city limits

And some laws are obviously not enforceable, so why do we have them?

In California, Animals are banned from mating publicly within 1,500 feet of a tavern, school, or place of worship.

We need periodic reviews of laws to eliminate the chaff from our legal system.  Currently, old laws are simply not enforced, and most people are completely unaware of them.  This is bad as it is ripe for abuse.  It makes legal harassment quite easy in that at any given time, it's likely you are violating some crusty old statute that nobody knows about, and subject to harassment by some law enforcement official who has decided he/she doesn't like you for some reason, and wants to make your life difficult by selectively enforcing some old law.  Selective enforcement is really a bad thing.  It's a recipe for civil abuse and for confrontation, and it waters down other laws too.  It gives those with authority seemingly arbitrary power to throw their weight around whenever they choose.  There have been many cases of this sort of thing (just scan YouTube if you feel like getting annoyed).

How do we solve this problem?  Periodic review of laws would be a great start.  We have far too many laws cluttering up the books.  It's much easier for people to be compliant, and much easier for enforcement if the tangle is smaller.  If laws were put on the books with a "review date" or "expiration date", so they had to be reviewed and re-confirmed in order to remain, that would help too.  Of course, there is a possibility of a law which IS needed falling off the books accidentally because somebody didn't manage the expiration date & review process properly.


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