This is Backwards

Here’s another case of government’s men who should know better, not knowing.

From the New Jersey Law Journal comes a description of a court considering the (mis)use of one law to feed the impact of another.  Sorry about the paywall; here’s a summary [emphasis added].

COURT TO DECIDE IF SEAT BELT LAPSE CAN SUPPORT A CRIMINAL CONVICTION The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether violation of the 1984 law that made seat belt wearing mandatory can support a criminal conviction under another statute.  To be reviewed is an appeals court holding that not wearing a seat belt can be a predicate offense for N.J.S.A. 2C:40-18, which criminalizes “knowingly violat[ing] a law intended to protect the public health and safety” through reckless conduct that injures another.  In State v. Lenihan, A-4667-10, the Appellate Division found the statute’s language gives no indication the Legislature would object to how it is being applied in this case, where the unbelted driver’s passenger was killed.

Leaving aside the question of how far a court—or any other government branch—should reach in order to criminalize an activity, giving no indication of objection is not the same as positively approving.

The principle embedded in our Federal Constitution in the 9th and 10th Amendments is this: negatively, enumeration in the Constitution does not limit or deny the not-enumerated to the people, and positively, powers not delegated to the United States are, in their remaining infinite entirety, left wholly to the States and to the people.  Moreover, these Amendments are to a Constitution that was written by We the People—an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the members of our social compact over the government we members, we citizens, hire to administer and to protect our rights.

If that principle is valid, though, it’s valid everywhere.  The citizens of each State of these United States are sovereign over each of their State governments, also.  Hence, here, too, positive action must be taken to proscribe a thing.  Absent active proscription, that thing must remain within the province of the individual, either acting alone or in concert with (some of) his fellows, to do or not do.

Thus, unless the New Jersey (or any other State) legislature definitively states, in the present case for instance, that not using a seat belt criminalizes other behavior under other law, it cannot be so used by a court.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *