Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nevada backs down on "Kidnapping" statute - and why this is a good thing.


Say the word these days and many people will immediately think of something like this:

This is the 2000's equivalent of "My name is Indigo Montoya. You keeled my father. Prepare to die."
"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don't have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you."
Or, even more horribly, something like this:

It's like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein's nightmares combined, went to hell, and then woke up Walt Disney...
This part made Chitty Chitty Bang Bang WAY creepier than it had any right to be.
But, as is the case with most Nevada law, the prosecution tends to play fast & loose with its application. Most notably, it has been applied as a way to throw extra (and unnecessary) charges at teachers who were having consensual relationships with 16-18 year old students - relationships, I might add, that would've been completely legal had the teacher/student relationship not been at issue as the age of consent in Nevada is 16. 

Our... extremely motivated... district attorneys will sometimes throw a lot of charges at someone just to see what sticks, regardless if they are appropriate to the given situation. Recently, a teacher was sentenced to 6-15 years largely because he was convicted of several kidnapping charges that were tacked on to his 'sexual misconduct' case. 

Unfortunately, in that case, the charges stuck. However, as of April 21, 2016, a new Nevada Supreme Court opinion has come down and found that:

  • The language contained in NRS 200.310(1) about the kidnappers "intent to keep" is ambiguous because the statutory language lends itself to two or more reasonable interpretations. 
  • Pursuant to Haney v. State: "If the statute is ambiguous, then this court will look beyond the statutory language itself to determine the legislative intent of the Statute" and 
  • The rule of lenity "demands that ambiguities in criminal statutes be liberally interpreted in the accused's favor."
There's a lot more case law and legal-ese I could put in here, but I'd rather make you laugh than put you to sleep, so let's just say that this is actually a good thing. Our prosecutors in this state have been making up their own rules for far too long. 

If you want to read more about this decision, you can look it up: Just Google 132 Nev., Advance Opinion 26 or Michael J. Schofield v. State of Nevada. 

Have a happy 4th of July, everyone. 

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