Russell Hebets Jan. 27, 2011

You’d be surprised just how many laws we have in this country. Federal, state and municipal governments all pass their own sets of laws and all empower administrative agencies (like the EPA or the Colorado Division of Wildlife) to make “rules,” which are essentially laws. On top of that, courts make laws with their published decisions. Why do we have so many?—because we need them all, right?—maybe. Let’s look at the state criminal law—just one very small piece of the overall legal jigsaw.

It is simply amazing how many different behaviors constitute criminal acts. In Colorado there are three classifications of crimes, each with subclasses: felony—the most serious, misdemeanor—of intermediate severity, and petty—the least serious. Below are some of my favorites, followed by Colorado Revised Statute citation, followed in certain cases (where I found the urge too much to resist) by my commentary inside square brackets. Enjoy!

Class 1 Misdemeanors (6-18 months jail and/or $500-5,000 fine):

Unlawful butchering of another’s animals. CRS 12-11-110 (3).

Sexual contact by an acupuncturist with a patient during the course of patient care. CRS 12-29.5-108 (2). [Seriously—this occurs often enough to merit enumeration in the criminal code?]

Inciting riot, if no injury to person or property. CRS 18-9-102 (3).

Wiretapping of a cordless phone. CRS 18-9-303 (2). [But a corded phone is totally kosher? Well I guess we all have free reign to wiretap 80 year-olds still using rotary telephones!]

Recruitment of a juvenile for a criminal street gang. CRS 18-23-102 (2). [When you think about it, isn’t this just a tax on gang membership?]

Class 1 Petty Offenses (up to 6 months jail and/or up to $500 fine):

Throwing missiles at vehicles. CRS 18-9-116. [What?]

Display of a flag other than the flag of the United States of America or of the state of Colorado or any of its subdivisions, agencies or institutions in a place likely to cause a breach of the peace. CRS 18-11-205 (2). [Um…can you spell “the first amendment lets me do this if I please?”]

Fighting by agreement — dueling. CRS 18-13-104 (1). [Bummer.]

Unlawfully discarding or abandoning iceboxes or motor vehicles and similar items. CRS 18-13-106. [“Similar items”?—like walruses? Honestly, how much commonality is there between a refrigerator and a car?]

Abusing toxic vapors. CRS 18-18-412. [Well why don’t they just make having fun illegal.]

Class 2 Petty Offenses:

Skiing on a ski slope or trail posted as “Closed”; skiing while ability impaired or under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance; skier leaving the vicinity of a collision with another skier or person in which injuries are involved, without giving name and current address to an employee of the ski area; or knowingly entering upon public or private lands adjoining a ski area when such land has been closed by its owner and so posted. CRS 33-44-109 (12) (up to $300 fine). [To be clear, if you ski drunk, the worst that can happen to you is a $300 fine. If you ride a bicycle drunk, you face the exact same consequences as driving a car drunk. What message is the legislature sending?]

Sources: Fort Lewis College CRS page, Class One Misdemeanors, Class 1 Petty Offenses.