Friday, September 9, 2016

The reality of police work and interpretation of the law.

A recent news story shows the reality of how the law is applied.

A school bus driver crashed her bus, which rolled on its side. She failed a sobriety test, said she was on a number of prescription drugs, so was charged with DUI. However, a later review disagreed with the sobriety test result, so the blood test which was also done (and presumably showed impairment) was inadmissible. So the DUI charge goes away.

The driver was also charged with vehicular assault. Vehicular assault basically means that somebody is injured due to a person's poor driving, so just about any accident with a resulting injury could be vehicular assault.

Finally, the driver was charged with child abuse. My first reaction was "what?". We normally think of child abuse in terms of malnourishment, imprisonment, beating, etc. Here an accident results in a child abuse charge. But looking up the law, it's correct. If any child is injured due to an action taken by another person, that's child abuse. It's interesting there are no restriction on the abuser -- if one child hits another, that's child abuse. In Little League if the pitcher unintentionally hits a batter or a player is hit by a batted ball, technically that could result in a child abuse charge.

As a rule, nobody is going to charge a little league player with child abuse (though it wouldn't surprise me if it's happened someplace, sometime). Why such a broadly written law? After a little thought it seems that the law is written on the assumption that the police and prosecutors will use discretion. Writing a narrowly defined law makes it easier for an abuser to get off by finding a loophole. Colorado's very broad law does not depend on intent, relationship of abused and abuser, or other rules. Writing a narrowly defined law would, especially if loopholes were found, easily turn the law into a very long list of what is and is not abuse. Instead, define the law broadly and depend on authorities to recognize what injuries constitute abuse.

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