Criminalizing Emotion

Posted by: Russell Hebets       19-Dec-2013       (0) Comments        Back to Main Blog

OK, I get it. Assaulting another human being is inexcusable. Domestic violence is a big problem in our culture and needs to be stamped out. Violence in society generally makes everyone worse off. On these things we can (hopefully) agree. The issue only gets tricky when you take situations where there isn’t an obvious act of violence against another. We recently had a case that really shined some light on just how far these definitions are sometimes stretched by the criminal justice system. 

Imagine this: You and your significant other are at home and have a disagreement. That disagreement turns into an argument. A heated argument. You get so frustrated that you pick up the closest thing to you (a plate) and throw it on the ground. It, of course, breaks. Fast forward 12 hours and there you are spending the night in the county jail waiting to see a judge so that you can post a bond, and wondering what just happened and why in God’s name they are telling you that you are being charged with domestic violence. 

Despite the fact that there were no threats, no assault, not even so much as a profanity laced tirade, domestic disputes play out this way all the time. The simple fact is that the law has increasingly taken discretion out of the hands of law enforcement, and made more and more actions criminal. The person in the example certainly showed anger, and definitely showed a temper, but aren’t these legitimate human emotions? Can’t venting be healthy in some circumstances? I don’t know about you, but sometimes a nice loud scream makes me feel a whole lot better.


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