A recent Wall Street Journal editorial gave several new examples that would be eligible for the discontinued Beadle Bumble Fund, the fund that was started by James J. Kilpatrick in 1959 to reimburse victims of legal stupidities. The fund is described in the posting of 11/10/2013, The Beadle Bumble Fund.
An 11-year-old girl in Virginia rescued a woodpecker from a cat and was fined for transporting a protected species.
Race-car driver Bobby Unser was charged with a federal crime for riding a snowmobile in a national wilderness after both snowmobiles of he and a friend broke down, and they survived for two days on melted snow while huddled in an ice cave. (Well, okay, maybe this is why they have the law. The judge only fined him $75, about what a parking ticket in Philly would cost. He could have gotten a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail.)
A fisherman who threw back an improperly caught, undersized grouper was charged with the anti-shredding provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act regulating the financial markets, presumably because he was destroying evidence.
The point of the editorial was in support of a bill that would eliminate criminal prosecution of federal regulation infractions committed by people who had no intent to commit them. In common law, this principle is called mens rea, or guilty mind—that to be guilty in some situations, a person must have been aware that the act was a crime and intended to commit it.
But then, a recent George Will column listed many more examples:
- Florida police raided a mahjong game played by four women aged 87–95 because they were playing for money.
- New Jersey police arrested a 72-year-old retired teacher, chained his hands and feet to a bench and charged him with illegally carrying a firearm — a 300-year-old flintlock pistol (with no powder, flint or ball) he purchased from an antique dealer.
- A 9-year-old Florida fourth-grader was threatened with sexual harassment charges if he continued to write love notes telling the apple of his eye that her eyes sparkle “like diamonds.”
(You can read the column that lists other examples of government absurdities, and past George Will columns, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/george-f-will/)