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Are additions to the criminal code causing more harm than good?

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2019 | criminal law | 0 comments

Pennsylvania has had an increase in crime recently. It seems that criminals are all over the state breaking laws left and right. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that perhaps there is not a huge increase in the number of criminals but rather there is a huge increase in the number of laws that people can break. The legislature has been quite busy enacting new laws that allow prosecutors to indict you on multiple charges at one time for the same alleged act.

This is highly concerning because not only does it pin you down with multiple charges and the possibility of increased penalties but it also creates a lot of redundancy within the system. Many of the new laws are simply restatements of old laws. They are a way to charge you with more crimes by simply wording something in a different way or slightly altering an existing law. For example, arson is a crime you probably know of, but did you know it is also a crime to set fire to your own house? These are the exact same things, but you would face two charges if you set your own house on fire on purpose.

Another concern is that with a long list of charges against you, it makes it more likely that you will plead guilty even if you are not just to get a plea bargain. A plea bargain can lower charges and penalties.

Legislatures stand up for the laws they have enacted saying most have been due to demand. For example, adding in laws covering new crimes to do with technology. They also say they are filling in gaps where a law did not specifically speak to a specific situation.

Whatever the case, there needs to be a better balance. The Pennsylvania legal system is overflowing, and making more laws is not helping. This information is for education and is not legal advice.