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A proposed amendment to the US constitution (Updated)

I would like to suggest the following amendment to the US constitution:

No person shall be convicted of a felonious crime or subject to lengthy term of imprisonment or loss of civil rights, or ruinous fine, or a sentence of death, save that either:
1)The intent of the accused to knowingly commit the specific alleged crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in open court
OR
2)The felonious actions of the accused be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in open court to have resulted in actual bodily injury, actual physical harm, or death, to another person

The goal here is to require intent for non-injurious crimes; no more strict liability.

(Edited to add the italicized words – the accused must have either meant to commit a crime or the injury must have been serious enough to merit a felony indictment. Please pass the BATFE and Sen Lautenberg some Kleenex)

9 Responses to “A proposed amendment to the US constitution (Updated)”

  1. Jake says:

    Sounds good, and it would fit right in with the obvious intent of the framers.

  2. Federal Farmer says:

    As written would only be applicable to Federal charges? Seems like you should have text to apply to the States unless you feel it is naturally applied via the 14th Amendment?

  3. Ian Argent says:

    I tossed that one around my head. I feel that this applies to the states via the 14th amendment; if I had meant it to apply only to the federal government I would have worded it as “convicted under the laws of the United States..”. To be pedantic, you could make that “convicted under the laws of the United States or any State…”

    The federalist in me says “let the states pass their own such protections”; but I don’t like the thought of the same act being a felony in one state but not another depending on the provable state of mind of the actor. So, the intent is to apply to states as well as federal juristiction

  4. Jujube says:

    So someone like Bernie Madoff could give the standard answer “I didn’t know it was wrong to do what I did” and get off? No more white collar crime?

  5. Jake says:

    I feel that this applies to the states via the 14th amendment; [...] So, the intent is to apply to states as well as federal juristiction

    Given the reason we have to do the selective incorporation dance for every part of the Bill of Rights, the odd decisions on incorporation that we get sometimes (like the requirement for a grand jury not being incorporated against the states), and SCOTUS’s continuing refusal to acknowledge the clear intent of the 14th Amendment’s “privileges and immunities” clause despite it’s plain language and the historical evidence, it’s probably a good idea to explicitly state that it does apply to the states as well as the feds.

    More importantly, I can’t see how it would hurt, and it would seem to only insure the intent is made clear.

  6. Ian Argent says:

    So someone like Bernie Madoff could give the standard answer “I didn’t know it was wrong to do what I did” and get off? No more white collar crime?

    No, the prosecutor would (merely) have to prove that he did. in fact, have intent to defraud. Which for Bernie Madoff, would be pretty clear. It would probably have spiked BATFE’s biggest guns at CavArms, though.

    @Jake: I’d have to look at how the various voting rights amendments were worded. Anything pre-14A has to go through the “selective incorporation” lens; anything after has the 14A as a baseline. Certainly wouldn’t hurt to be clear, though

  7. Chris Byrne says:

    You need to leave room for felonious criminal negligence or depraved indifference.

    Other than that, I’m all for it.

    I believe the courts ignoring mens rea as an element in any crime is one of the greatest problems facing our country today.

  8. Ian Argent says:

    Mr. Byrne’s addition may be considered a friendly amendment :)

    add to the end:

    “OR
    3)The actions of the accused be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to result from felonious criminal negligence or depraved indifference”

  9. Jake says:

    I’d have to look at how the various voting rights amendments were worded. Anything pre-14A has to go through the “selective incorporation” lens; anything after has the 14A as a baseline. Certainly wouldn’t hurt to be clear, though

    At a quick glance, they all specify “by the United States or by any State”.

    I don’t think post-14th amendments would automatically apply to the states unless they say so – there would need to be an incorporation case for the particular amendment. If nothing else, not specifying it would leave it open for states to ignore it until someone challenges it in court.

    At the very least, you don’t want some judge deciding “if they meant it to apply to the states they would have stated it specifically.”

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