If It Sounds Unbelievable, It Probably Is


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Zach says:

    On top of that, ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse. There’s good reason for regulating agricultural imports, and it’s your responsibility as an importer to familiarize yourself with the law. Expecting laws “to protect innocents by requiring substantial proof that an accused person acted with actual criminal intent” is absurd. I doubt many at the Washington Times would extend the same sympathy to perpetrators of violent crimes who weren’t aware of all the ramifications of their actions. Tough on crime, unless it’s white collar.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Zach says:

      Ehhh….this goes too far in the other direction. When we criminalize conduct, we usually at least have some sort of mens rea requirement. True, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but that’s different from imposing strict criminal liability on anyone who commits a regulatory violation.

      We do, however, regularly impose strict civil liability for regulatory violations in the form of fines and license suspensions.

      Sending someone to jail for simply failing to properly fill out paperwork is really draconian. Sending someone to jail for knowingly failing to properly fill out paperwork is generally ok.

      So yeah, we can criminalize the importation of endangered species without much of a break from traditional mens rea requirements – as long as the defendant knew they were importing that species, traditional criminal law says that it’s ok to convict whether or not they know importing that species was illegal. But it’s a big break from traditional mens rea requirements to convict for a failure to complete paperwork related to the importation of something that is legal to import where the defendant had no idea that he was required to complete that paperwork. For that, the appropriate action to take is historically just fines or license suspensions (or maybe, in some circumstances, treatment as a misdemeanor).Report

      • Avatar Zach in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I don’t see how the defendant could know that importing a certain type of orchid was legal with certainty (with anyone remotely involved with the practice knowing that importation of certain species is illegal) without also being aware of the regulatory requirements of legally importing that type of orchid.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Zach says:

          Why not? Not everyone goes through the hoops of checking the regulations to see what is and is not legal to import before they go ahead and import something. Plenty of times, they just assume it’s legal and import it.

          Regardless, whether they’re aware of the regulatory requirement is a fact issue. Certainly evidence that they researched the legality of importing item x can be used to suggest that they were aware of the need to complete Form 1010101, but it is not dispositive in and of itself.Report

          • Avatar Zach in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            I think that in the process of becoming certain that importing x is legal it is inevitable that one would discover the need to fill out some sort of form and then be responsible for finding out it’s form 1010101. I would allow for a case where an exporter is knowingly deceiving an importer and lies about a lack of forms to fill out. That’s different from not bothering to do the legwork, though.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Zach says:

              Like I said, though – that’s a fact issue, not a legal issue. In other words, the defendant’s state of mind is for the jury to decide – it can’t just be assumed as a matter of law to the point where you just remove the mens rea requirement and make it a strict liability felony.Report

  2. Avatar Will says:

    Good catch, Mark (and props to Ken, as well).Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Legalize Orchids.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    another option is never trust the washington timesReport