Dems Propose Unnecessary Federal Law
Article from Reason by Robby Soave.
Following reports that a violent parody video depicting President Trump murdering a bunch of journalists was shown at a pro-Trump conference over the weekend, Democrats are calling on Congress to make it a federal crime to threaten or attack members of the media.
The House version of the bill doesn’t actually attempt to criminalize mere threats. Instead, it establishes “journalist” as a protected class, and defines the category very broadly as “anyone engaging in regular gathering, preparation, collection, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing concerning a local, national, or international event or other matter of public interest.” Causing bodily injury to a journalist carries a penalty of three to six years in prison.
Journalists don’t need a new law to protect them from violence, though. Needless to say, it is already illegal to cause bodily injury to another person. At best, creating an additional law at the federal level is pointless. In reality, such a law could have the effect of infringing upon the civil liberties of people accused of violence. When something is criminalized at both the state and federal level, or criminalized on several different grounds, prosecutors have additional opportunities to bring charges. In practice, additional charges often give defendants little option but to plead guilty in exchange for a deal: The authorities simply have too many chances to convict them.
When I testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at a briefing on hate crimes, Commissioner Gail Heriot (a contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy) expressed concern that federal hate crime laws violated the principle of double jeopardy—a person should not be tried twice for the same crime—since they give federal authorities a rationale for pursuing additional charges against a defendant. This could easily be the case with the Journalist Protection Act as well: A defendant could face state charges for assault, and federal charges for assault against a journalist, specifically.
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By Haxorjoe [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons