Laws are made for a reason, right? It is important to be tough on crime, right?
Imagine that you are tourist in Vegas. You are approached by a shady character and you make the negative choice to purchase some cocaine. You only live once, right? You and your friends will have a ton of fun if you just take the party to the next level, right?
So you purchase two “8-balls” of cocaine to take to a nightclub with you. The likelihood of getting caught is low, and how much trouble could you be in? This is Vegas. What happens here stays here, right?
Nevada, like many of States, has insanely tough drug laws. Trafficking of a felony drug (like cocaine) carries a MANDATORY prison sentence. The trafficking statute in the State of Nevada assumes that you are participating in the drug trade if you are carrying anything over four grams of a felony drug.
Now let’s go back to your cocaine purchase on the Las Vegas Strip. An “8-ball” of cocaine is called that because it is 1/8 of an ounce. This equals 3.68 grams. Therefore, you are guilty of trafficking cocaine by purchasing and possessing two “8-balls.” Now someone who has never been part of the criminal justice system is facing real prison time.
Am I saying that the use of drugs is a positive thing? Absolutely not. But this law is applied in this very way quite often. There are countless other examples. Battery (and domestic battery) only require an “offensive touching.” Burglary only requires entry of a dwelling with felonious intent.
Think hard. Have you ever committed any of these crimes? You probably have. Even if you managed to get through life without battering someone or doing drugs, you have probably gotten behind the wheel after drinking.
Every single one of these activities can land you in jail. Most of us think back and say “whew, I’m lucky I didn’t get caught doing X.” But should law really be about the likelihood of getting caught? Should we be writing laws in a way that could make every American a felon?