Your Papers, Please! - II
Before 1969, traffic violations were misdemeanor offenses and defendants were fully protected by our justice system. .... Since 1969 in California, citizens have been denied jury trials for most alleged traffic offenses. Before 1969, there were only two classes of criminal offense in the state of California, misdemeanors and felonies. Felony offenses are very serious and can result in the death penalty or state prison time. All other offenses in California before 1968, including traffic offenses, were misdemeanors. ....
Beginning on January 1, 1969, the state legislature created a new category of criminal offense called the infraction. The state would preserve all its rights in prosecuting these infraction citations as criminal offenses, but would remove the citizen's most basic rights to justice in these cases. For the first time in California history, citizens would be legally denied their right to a jury trial in criminal cases."
This practice of denying the Constitutional rights to a jury trial soon spread across the country in other states. In defense of the denial of jury trials in the courts, it was argued that America is an offspring of English Common law, and that in England many were denied jury trials, and therefore, America could roll back to reliance upon the King of England for authority to denying jury trials.
Historically, it is correct that the King of England did often foreclose the people from jury trials. We find this fact in our Declaration of Independence from England, namely, "For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:" But this is the very reason our Founding Fathers said in our Constitution there is but one single exception to a jury trial, and that is for impeachments, invented "infractions" notwithstanding. Art. III, Sec. 3. How do we reclaim America again? By restoring the constitutional mandate of jury trials for everything! And how do we restore that constitutional mandate? Only by the passage of J.A.I.L. throughout this country will there exist liberty and justice for all.
I Am a Criminal
Yes, that's right. I, R. Lee Wrights,
being of sound mind and aging body, do solemnly acclaim and justly
affirm that I am a criminal. And, if I do my job correctly, by the
time you finish reading this you will realize that you are a
criminal also; and, that something needs to be done about it.
My premise is simply that government, not only at the federal level but in particular at the state and local level, has grown so gorged and bloated that it has become virtually impossible for any of us to remain "law-abiding citizens." In order to be law-abiding, one must first know and understand the law. Now I ask you, in today's society how many people really know, let alone understand, "the law?" Moreover, how many policemen really know or, more importantly, understand the law? Do the lawyers and judges, who are charged with the protection of America's most sacred document, even understand the law? Judging from the number of appealed judgments these days, it would appear that even these "protectors of justice" are unable to effectively untangle the thicket of jurisprudence created by the endless loads of fertilizer produced by the various legislatures.
Just the number of laws one would have to familiarize themselves with in order to become adequately knowledgeable makes the task near to impossible. Why, we would all have to go to law school just to get to a proper starting point of understanding the law. Last year, in North Carolina alone, 519 new laws were passed by the General Assembly. Sixty new laws took affect in the Old North State on January 1st of this year. Add these to the tens of thousands of laws already on the books and you begin to see the enormity of the endeavor to properly understand justice and how its principles are to be applied. And that is just in one state, folks. I wonder how many "new" laws have been instituted where you live this year?
Still skeptical? Take an afternoon and go to the nearest law library. Even the name "law library" should send a chill down any thinking person's spine. I am not talking about a corner of your local public library where you'll find a shelf or two stocked with reference books about a particular subject. No, I mean a whole library devoted to cataloging all the things you and I are not allowed to do. Whole rooms filled wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with a seemingly endless array of laws, statutes, and regulations. Shelf next to shelf, volume upon volume, and page after page, creating a twisting, turning maze of decisions, rulings and appeals. This is where you go when you seek comprehension of the chains that fetter your pursuit of happiness. Have a seat and look around at what you must learn if you really want to be an honest, up-standing, law-abiding citizen.
Government has simply made it too easy to break the law for us not to be criminals. I mean, you are required to have a license or permit to do practically everything. That means that you must go to a bureaucrat somewhere and ask their permission before you proceed or you become a criminal. If you want to drive to work, you must first have a paper from the State that says you are allowed to operate a vehicle. If you want to improve your home, you are required to go downtown and stand before your elected rulers and beg their indulgence so that you can add that patio or finish your basement. If you want to get a job to support your family, you cannot do so without a number supplied by the benevolent nannies that soil the seats of CONgress. How long does this list have to be before you realize that if you have to ask permission to do everything, not only will you eventually slip up and become a criminal, but you have also ceased to be free? With every new law enacted another little piece of liberty dies.
Perhaps nothing exemplifies my point more so than a personal experience I had about 6 or 7 years ago. I was invited by a friend to accompany him on a fishing expedition to one of the local lakes owned by the county where we both reside. Being the careful individual that I am, I researched the laws concerning wildlife management, as well as, the regulations adopted by the county. I found that if I only fished using live bait, the law did not require that I obtain a fishing license as long as I remained in the county of my residence. I was very pleased with myself that I had found a way to save a few bucks on what promised to be an enjoyable outing.
However, the day was not to go unspoiled. Not long after we had launched our boat and found what we thought looked like a promising spot, we were approached by a game warden. I remained unconcerned as we chatted and I proudly showed him that I was only using live bait and therefore required no state sanction. He asked for proof of my residence, which I supplied via business cards and a recent tax bill that I was going to pay on my way home. It was then that he informed me that I was in violation of state law. I was beginning to protest that I was in full compliance of the wildlife management code when the warden told me he was not referring to the wildlife code. It was then that I learned I was in violation of state law for appearing in public and not possessing a picture ID. At that moment, the veil was lifted from my eyes as my day of personal enlightenment dawned.
I realized that every time I set foot off of my own property, I became a criminal. I violate the law each and every time I take a leisurely stroll around my neighborhood. In almost half a century on this earth, I have never been arrested, much less convicted of a crime; and yet, all I have to do to become a criminal in the eyes of the State is leave home! Why? Because I do not have a snapshot of myself, taken by a state-sanctioned bureaucrat, in my pocket when I go out in public. I must ask you, am I really free? Are you really free? Are your papers in order? Are you a criminal?
There are laws regulating everything from what color you can and cannot paint your house to what kind of sex in which two consenting adults are allowed to engage. Why is it like this? Crime is big business, that's why. In fact, crime is government's biggest industry.
Surprised to see me say that? It really isn't all that odd when you consider that the State derives revenue on both sides of the law. Remember, all those licenses and permits you are required to obtain are accompanied by fees. While on the flip side, every breech of the never-ending, self-perpetuating, always-growing bureaucracy carries a fine. You are forced to pay in order to abide by the law so you can avoid having to pay for breaking the law.
Therefore, as the beast has grown, it has become the State's own self interest that drives legislators to constantly search for new sources of revenue. That's why 519 laws were passed in my home state last year. That is why 500 new laws will probably be passed this year, and again next year, and again the year after that. The only way a government can realize greater income than it does today is either by accelerating tax increases; or, by creating new ways for us to become criminals and providing the appropriately-priced bounties required to avoid becoming criminals. So you see, every new law not only nibbles away at your freedom while further gorging an already bloated beast Bureaucracy, it also becomes a new source of revenue for the State.
So, we are left with the question, "What can been done about it?" Take my advice, do yourself a favor and educate yourself. Do a little digging and find out all the different options made available to you, by your friends in government, for becoming a criminal. Then perhaps we will see the emergence of what is needed to reverse the encroachment of the law - Reform. You have to get fed up with the foolishness of endless legislation and do something. Speak against further regulation at every opportunity in any venue that opportunity provides. Run for public office as a truly reform-minded candidate, or support such candidates wherever they can be found. One thing is for certain; there will never be reform without reformers willing to make a fight if necessary. Or at least a group of decent, honest people that are just sick and tired of being criminals. Come on folks, enough is enough!
R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in North Carolina. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All and an editor at Free-Market.Net.