Criminal Penalties Should be Levied only on those with a Guilty Mind
No person should be convicted of a crime without the government proving that he or she intended to violate a law or knew that his or her conduct was unlawful. Generally, criminal offenses under Rhode Island law include such specific standards, but if they don’t, then a default requirement should apply. The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity supports state efforts to protect citizens from unjust punishment because of ambiguous and poorly-drafted criminal offenses.
There are myriad factors required to ensure a fair and just criminal justice system: both the United States’ and Rhode Island’s Constitutions protect the rights of the accused to counsel, speedy trials, and due process, among other guarantees. But those constitutional protections exclude one notable aspect of a fair criminal justice system, which may be so fundamental that it escaped constitutional inclusion in the heady days of constitution writing.
According the Report Card on Rhode Island Competitiveness, our state grades out at an “F” in the categories of State Lawsuit Climate and in Domestic Migration. Passage of the protections recommended in this Policy Brief would help ensure that a high profile legal case based on some obscure law might not further deter people and businesses from remaining in or moving to the Ocean State.