Friday, January 14, 2011

Prosecutor Overreach


5 years for reading someone's email, when all he did was catch his wife cheating and prevent trauma to his wife's children? I would understand facing 5 years if he had gone into the email and taken personal information and used it – bank numbers or passwords or whatnot. But while email privacy is something we should protect, 5 years in jail is an absolutely ridiculous punishment. I've seen pranks that did worse.

The interesting question is what features of the system you'd want to tweak so that this doesn't happen? Prosecutors have an incentive to get convictions, because that's what gets them promoted (I'd be willing to bet the 5 years is a scare tactic and it will eventually be settled for less, but still - it shouldn't even be on the table). Is that something we really want?

The other question I have is about judicial discretion - isn't this the sort of situation you'd want judicial discretion in? This is clearly not what that law was intended for, so do we really want to prosecute on that basis?

Or maybe we have too many lawyers with nothing to do, and need fewer applicants and admits to law schools. At the individual requests of readers Eric and Mike, that will be the subject of a future set of posts.



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