Legal Definition Void for Vagueness

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I confess that I have always thought about it. To revolt meant to rid oneself of all obedience to the Lord; to take possession of the vessel by force from the crew; to navigate them themselves or to transfer command to another person on board. But although this is always my opinion, I am not in a position to support it by any authority that one might meet, neither in general, nor in admiralty, nor in civil law. If we return to the definitions of philologists, they are so diverse and so different that I cannot help but feel a natural reluctance to choose from this mass of definitions that which can accuse these men of a crime, and that of a capitalist nature. [160] Again, the traditional rule, the mile rule, is that ambiguous criminal statutes must be interpreted narrowly. The justifications for the leniency rule reflect the justifications for disclosure and non-delegation that underlie the vacuum doctrine for vagueness. As the Supreme Court wrote nearly two centuries ago, another solution the Court used for otherwise vague laws was also problematic. He ruled that a scientific element in a criminal law can prevent the law from being considered vague. [11] However, there is a good argument that this so-called remedy does not solve anything, because one can meet a scientific requirement by knowing the nature of his behaviour and the facts that make his behaviour illegal, and one still does not understand why his behaviour falls within the prohibition of the law because of undefined legal language. Viewing vagueness as a problem of impossibility also helps solve one of the puzzles of the law: why are vague laws unconstitutional but ambiguous laws are not? Finally, the rule of clemency is not enforced by the Constitution. [352] However, this canon is consistently defended for reasons that almost entirely overlap with the logic underlying the doctrine of emptiness for indeterminacy. [353] The answer is that ambiguous laws can be followed, even if the actor must give a large place to the law by avoiding possible legal activity. Only if a law does not essentially allow an actor to avoid being characterized as a criminal does a law violate due process.

Therefore, the rule is partly justified by the termination principles: given the ambiguity of a law, a potential criminal actor does not have sufficient notice to be interpreted broadly and should therefore be interpreted restrictively. [225] And it is partly justified by the principle of non-delegation: «It prevents Parliament from transmitting to the courts the details of criminal legislation.» [226] In fact, both the doctrine of nullity for vagueness and the rule of leniency are instantiations of the principle of legality, which prescribes that no one may be punished criminally except according to a clear rule that governed the conduct of the actor at the time of his act. [227] The two «are closely related» and can «be considered contiguous segments of the same spectrum». [228] State v. Partlow[186] is also a classic case of ambiguity. In this case, North Carolina law prohibited «the sale of alcohol. within three miles of *** Mount Zion Church in Gaston County. [187] It turned out that there were two churches in this county that bore this name. [188] The Court held that the law was void because it was not «open to interpretation». [189] However, the law was ambiguous, not vague: the Mount Zion church mentioned in the statute was one or the other, and the court twice described the law as ambiguous. [190] In fact, Partlow has a more famous contract law Döppelganger, Raffles v. Wichelhaus,[191] which, as is known, included a contract for the ship «Peerless», each party having a different «Peerless» in mind.

[192] And Raffles is uniformly recognized as a case of contractual ambiguity, not vagueness. [193] Washington J. then used language that could certainly be interpreted as applying the rule of strict interpretation of an ambiguous criminal law on the one hand or concluding that the law is ineffective because it is void on the other. He wrote: «The laws that create the crime should be so explicit in themselves or by reference to another standard that all those subject to their penalties can know what acts to avoid.» [161] He concluded that he would essentially dismiss this charge: «For these reasons, the court will not recommend to the jury that the prisoners be convicted of insurrection or attempted insurrection, regardless of the strength of the evidence.» [162] Even beyond the problem of lack of clarity in laws, clear laws, which, however, criminalize much of ordinary conduct, involve similar concerns about delegation. Prosecutors can and must choose from among the many offenders who will be the few who will be prosecuted. And the web of overlapping and redundant criminal prohibitions allows prosecutors to determine not only who should be punished, but also how much they should be punished. In this way, overlapping general laws transfer responsibility for fundamental criminal policy issues from the legislature to prosecutors. The problem of delegation is therefore hardly limited to legal vagueness, yet delegation is considered constitutionally problematic only if a law is vague. The third element of Grayned is particularly important with respect to the First Amendment. The modern Supreme Court has always said that the doctrine of nullity for vagueness is applied with the utmost rigour when it comes to First Amendment freedoms. As early as 1963, NAACP v. Button, the Court stated that «[t]he permissible legal vagueness in the field of freedom of expression are strict.

The offensive nature of vagueness and breadth does not depend on the absence of fair notification of an accused or an unchanneled delegation of legislative powers, but on the risk of tolerating the existence of a criminal law capable of widespread and abusive application in the area of First Amendment freedoms. In formulating the structural justification for the doctrine of nullity on the ground of vagueness, the Court has repeatedly included the courts as impermissible dequiries of the legislative branch. In Sessions v. Dimaya, for example, the majority wrote that «the doctrine protects against arbitrary or discriminatory prosecution by insisting that a law establish standards for the actions of police, prosecutors, jurors, and judges.» [264] The situation is similar in Johnson v. In the United States, the court concluded that the vagueness of the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminals Act «deprives defendants of fair notice and invites judges to arbitrary application.» [265] Dimaya and Johnson both involved federal statutes, but the Court said the same thing about delegation to state court judges about vague state laws. With the suppression of a vagrancy in Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville,[266] for example, the court wrote: «Those who are generally affected by the imprecise terms of the order. may be required to behave in accordance with the lifestyle deemed appropriate by the Jacksonville Police Department and the courts. [267] And in Grayned v.

City of Rockford,[268] the Court justified the doctrine of lack of vagueness by writing: «A vague law improperly delegates fundamental political issues to police, judges and juries to resolve them in a timely and subjective manner, with the associated dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application.» [269] Courts and commentators have observed problems with the doctrine of vagueness almost since it appeared in Supreme Court cases in the early twentieth century. In particular, the doctrine has been criticized for its lack of a clear distinction between vague and non-vague laws. More recently, Justice Thomas has seriously questioned the constitutional foundations of the doctrine. Commentators have also noted that the doctrine of vacuity for indeterminacy is not inclusive when it comes to eradicating laws that provide inadequate information about wrongdoing and, most importantly, delegate too much legislative power to other branches of government. The doctrine also contains a substantial contradiction by relying on restrictive constructions of the judiciary and executive power to save an otherwise vague law, while excessive delegation to these branches is the main evil produced by vague legal language. Finally, some commentators have criticised the Court`s reliance on the presence of a scientific element in otherwise vague criminal law to prevent the law from being perceived as vague. Now consider a law that criminalizes knowingly being «nearby,» not a firearm, but a «dangerous instrument.» Without a legal definition or a general understanding of what a «dangerous instrument» is, the actor is left completely in the dark by this term, as is the case with the word «near». The difference is that while you can ensure that you are not knowingly «in the vicinity» of a firearm by not owning a firearm, you can never ensure that you are not near a «dangerous instrument».

Many items necessary for everyday life – knives, detergents, sockets, cars – are «dangerous» if used improperly or maliciously. Even if you were to get rid of extravagances such as ordinary kitchen knives, any heavy, blunt instrument could also be «dangerous.» Compliance with such a law would really be impossible. In the early twentieth century, the Court often used the doctrine of emptiness to designate vagueness to sweep aside laws aimed at limiting commercial interests. For example, it repealed laws prohibiting companies from charging an «unfair or unreasonable rate or fee»[41] that depended on criminal liability depending on whether a company`s anti-competitive conduct was motivated by a desire for «reasonable profit»[42], which required companies to pay their employees «the current daily wage on site»[43]. and bans «waste» in oil production. [44] One of the cases cited by Gorsuch J., McConvill v.