The Criminalization of Stupid Behavior

Some of you may be old enough to remember when getting caught putting firecrackers in the neighbor’s mailbox as a prank would get you grounded for a month and perhaps earn you a trip to the woodshed if your parents were into corporal punishment. In today’s society, if your teenager engages in such activity, he’s likely to be arrested and sent to jail for destruction of property and possibly face federal charges relating to interference with postal services! Growing up as the youngest of six kids, I’m certain that I threatened my older brother with death or physical bodily harm roughly seven zillion times. And I meant it every single time. Today, I would face arrest and prosecution for the offense of terroristic threats.

Criminal in handcuffs


Too many times both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve witnessed enforcement of laws, designed to protect our society from really bad people, against good people exercising poor judgment.  I suppose sometimes it can be challenging to make a clear determination as to whether a person is ‘bad’ or just made a bad choice, but often times it really isn’t that hard. I’ve seen more than one man convicted of the offense of Terroristic Threats who honestly never should have been arrested to begin with. People say stupid things when their hearts are broken. I should know; I’ve said stupid things under similar circumstances. It’s one thing to threaten someone intending to scare them or harass them and an entirely different thing to make a threat because your heart is broken. One stupid statement should not a life ruin.


Because I have children, I’m all in favor of keeping our schools as safe as we can, but the enforcement of some of the rules against weapons at school has made me question our methodology. I know of a case where a young man was kicked out of school for having a knife in a tackle box in his truck in the parking lot of the school. He’d been fishing the weekend before and hadn’t taken his tackle box out of his truck when he went to school. Security searched the box looking for drugs (which they didn’t find) and found the knife. That young man did not need to be kicked from school or prosecuted for having a weapon on school property but he was. However, I’m fully in support of prosecuting and expelling any student that brings a weapon into a school. Too many kids have done too many evil things over the last several years to condone having a weapon in school.


Bottom line of this blog is today’s society is much less tolerant of behavior that used to be, if not acceptable, at least tolerated. As a parent, it’s difficult sometimes to navigate the legal waters that now surround our children. We must be ever vigilant in monitoring our kid’s actions and their associates to make sure they aren’t doing something that, while on the outside seems innocent, may actually result in significant damage to their future.


If you or a loved one have been charged with or accused of crime, please give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free and confidential consultation.


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