A law broken once is still a law broken

By Kelli Christiansen

I am beginning to think of myself as a naive believer in justice.

Why, you might ask. Well, let me tell you.

It all began when… (fade into blurred dream-type sequence…) my family and I went out for dinner on my dad’s birthday. Scene: a crowded restaurant. Our table: a step and a half away from the bar. Characters: me, my twin, my mother and my dad, who, by the way, was not in a birthday mood due to a sinus problem.

We were talking about those ever-exciting grades, work, blah, blah, blah when something happened. Suddenly my sister and I were debating over the justice system. I knew this is just what my dad wanted to talk about.

I feel a need to explain the discussions that involve my sister and me. No matter the topic—they’re loud. This is not simply slightly raised voices, this borders on shouts of rage and frustration. I dare say my dad was a tad embarrassed.

Well anyway, we were discussing the punishment of first-time offenders. It was always my understanding that crimes are punishable. Hence my naivete. Once again I’ve apparently made a wrong assumption. I am seeing such things as first-time offenders getting off of a variety of crimes with a simple slap on the wrist, if anything at all.

Whoa! wait just a cotton-pickin‘ minute here. Aren’t crimes subject to punishment by law? Why is it, or am I sorely mistaken, that people evade punishement with puppy-dog eyes, pouts and “but-it’s-my-first-offense-and-I-promise-I’ll-never- do-it-again”lines? My view, as loudly presented to my family (including my dad who was obviously wishing he was elsewhere in the presence of other, more reserved company) was, and still is, that if a person commits a crime (and is unlucky enough to get caught) that person should pay the price. That’s the law. It might not be the best, but that’s all we got, folks. And I get the feeling that our judicial systems are not likely to change in the next few days.

So that’s what I was trying to tell my family.

The flip side. The views of both my mother and my twin were, and probably still are, that if there are extenuating circumstances, then committing a crime is a-OK. According to their views, if you’ve had a really bad day, decide to do a little something illegal, why, that’s OK because you needed the release.

So, does this mean that if I had a really bad day and when I came home my roommate had splattered bread dough all over the kitchen, I could assault her with a long, sharp knife and it would be OK because I had had a really bad day?

Hell, no. Not only would I lose the respect of her friends and family, still have to clean up the bread dough by myself and have to pay the rent with all my own money, I would certainly be prosecuted. That’s the law. Good or bad, that’s the way it is.

“Committing a crime just once is OK?” I asked my twin.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish our conversation because my father revealed that he would really like to go home. So we had to leave our questions unanswered.

I like to believe that these questions are already answered under the structures of our laws. But it seems that I’m mistaken. Or am I?