Our Laws Make those of Medieval England Seem Reasonable (Will Grigg)
Friday March 1st, 2013
40-year-old Orlando, Florida resident Anthony Brasfield was with his girlfriend in the parking lot of a motel when he released a handful of helium-filled, heart-shaped balloons into the air. A Florida Highway Patrol Trooper saw this and arrested Brasfield for violating the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act –a third-degree felony punishable by a prison term of up to five years.
On February 23, Lendsey and Delilha Harbin, a married couple from Portage, Indiana, paid for a ticket to see the new action film “Snitch” and then, after it ended, decided to switch theaters and catch the zombie movie “Warm Bodies.” Two off-duty cops working as security guards spotted the sneak and arrested the couple.
It would have cost the couple $13.50 to pay for tickets. Throwing them out of the theater, and perhaps banning them from it, would have been an appropriate response to their attempted petty larceny. Instead, they were charged with felony theft.
It’s worth remembering that in Anglo-Saxon law, the term “felony” originally described a crime of such severity that a death sentence was considered appropriate punishment. Today, practically anything can be treated as a felony – a fact that suggests that we lack the sense of proportionality possessed by our medieval ancestors.