I have a practical take on the law. By that, I mean that laws which don’t produce their intended consequences need to be changed. Or repealed. Laws that don’t have the everyday results that they should are merely useless rules. I hate rules.
What is worse than laws that fail to live to their intended consequences are laws that harm those they are intending to protect. There are a lot of them. Some of the biggest, meanest, most “get tough on crime” laws out there might cause innocent people to become harmed. DUI laws making the roadway more dangerous? Yeah. Narcotics laws encouraging drug transactions near schools? Absolutely. Don’t believe these types of laws are on the books? Nobody ever believes me…
Gangs? Guns? How close can we get them to the local park?
Except, of course the Illinois General Assembly. Your legislators are contemplating change of what is probably the easiest, most politically safe of these laws. There is a bill in the pipeline that may change the Drug Induced Homicide law. This is long overdue.
For those not in-the-know, the current law punishes just about anybody who provides an illegal narcotic to somebody who subsequently dies from that narcotic. It doesn’t rise to the level of requiring the “provider” to sell the drugs. You may just be handing them from one person to the user. Passing them across the table.
The problem is that this law makes no exceptions. So, as things go in the drug world, people are splitting drugs- maybe passing a baggie back and forth- and one of them accidentally overdoses. Does the other user call an ambulance? Hell no. If the overdose victim dies, the other guy is looking at spending some quality time caged up like a dog. The current law encourages the very homicide it is attempting to punish.
The new law provides an incentive to the second user to call the police. To help. To do everything possible to prevent the overdose from turning into a homicide. That makes more sense.
Before anybody chimes in to let me know that drug users get what they have bargained for, I’m making no judgment about the legalization of narcotics, or the character of those who use them. That is not the issue. I am saying that if the Illinois General Assemby is going to put money, time, and effort into drafting laws, then they should at least make sense. Or, at least not be circular.
Nevertheless, the criminal code is packed with these circular laws. Call me crazy, but I think that criminal laws should do everything to keep kids at schools and parks safe. Places where kids hang out should be sanctuaries free of the stray bullets and shady dealings of drug pushers.
You want people dealing drugs near your kid’s school? You got it! Gangs? Guns? How close can we get them to the local park? Don’t believe me?
Illinois law punishes the sale of narcotics near a school as a Class X felony. On the surface, this looks great. A class X felony is the most severe class a crime can be, unless it’s a murder. Let’s hammer those drug dealers hanging out on the school playground!
Wait just one minute.
Picture the following: You’re a young, aggressive cop. You’re 2-3 years past your initial training and starting to get the job figured out. Because you’re young and you look it, the department assigns you to the narcotics task force. You’re doing exciting undercover work. The task force is funded in part by grants from the state and feds- and your mission is to get the biggest and baddest dealers of the street. Any patrol cop can pick up a gram of weed or trace amounts of cocaine here and there. The task force goes after the big fish, and publicizes major busts to show the public it is making a difference.
You work hard on the task force. You get a petty user to flip and introduce you to his dealer. You go make some small buys from the dealer. He has you meet him in a parking lot. He has you meet him at the mall. The dealer gets comfortable with you, and now you’ve got his cell phone and deal with him directly. Time goes on, and your buys are more frequent and a little larger… not large enough to be considered a big deal to the task force, though.
One day you text him telling him you need drugs. How much? Whatever he’s got. He says he can be ready in an hour, and asks if you can meet by the mall. “I’m on the other side of town… any way you can meet me over here?” He’s done this before, so he trusts you.
What do you do? You give him a location near the school. Why? Because today is the day that you and the rest of the task force are taking him off the street. And you want to catch him red-handed. With drugs. You also want to take him down for as long as possible. You want the class X, and he needs to be near the school for that to happen.
It all sounds reasonable, right? Get that guy off the street for as long as possible? Sure. The aim of the special rule for selling drugs near a school is keep the drugs away from the school, though. It’s putting those kids it attempts to help in greater harm. By making it a bigger bust, though, there is incentive to get the dealer, his drugs, and possibly his firearms near that protected sanctuary.
You think it doesn’t happen? I’m guessing you’re not a criminal defense attorney in Illinois. Or you haven’t been very long. It happens all the time.
It’s easy to bury the practical realities and support politicians who pound their fists and claim to be “get tough on crime” politicians. It’s not easy to look at how these laws actually play out in the real world. Again, I’m not taking a position on drug laws- I’m saying that if you make the punishment uniform across-the-board less dealers (including their drugs, guns, and other problems) would be near schools.
That’s just the start of it, too. You think DUI laws should get drunks off the road? Sometimes they do, sometimes they absolutely do not. Maybe it’s not a law, but what about MAAD? Should they be helping obtain guilty convictions, or not guilty verdicts after trials?
A law that doesn’t do what it is designed to do is just a bad rule. I hate rules.