Once upon a time, rulers such as kings and emperors created laws that all subjects living within their realms were forced to obey in countries far and wide. If the king or emperor was a fair and just person, the laws they made served the people they ruled, and everyone was happy for the most part. But inevitably, there came to the thrones of these lands kings and emperors who were not fair or just. And the laws that these monarchs made caused suffering to their people.
And so it came to pass that people opposed these monarchs and demanded change. Chief among the people’s demands was that the law be placed above all men – including kings and emperors. They also demanded that statutes would not arbitrarily change and that new rules would not be enacted without the people’s consent.
In other words, instead of the King being the law, the law would be the King. And those governed by the “Rule of Law” would have an equal voice in creating and administrating such laws.
Revolutions were brought, and many people died to bring about such change.
This is why we in the United States don’t have things like “King James Law” or “Queen Anne’s Law.” Our elected officials enact public laws through the people’s consent. We live under the Rule of Law and not the rule of someone making up laws by which we must live. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
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However, Lately, we seem to have embraced some macabre fad that ushers in new laws named after people who were victims of one calamity or another. This new law fad has been happening so fast and frequently that some people have called these new laws “vanity laws.”
You know what I am talking about. I’m talking about Adam’s Law Mar,y’s Law Sco, tt’s Law, and God’s Law. They are popping up everywhere, in every state and even on the federal level.
Unfortunately, no one is given a pass in life. Bad things can and do happen to good people. And, understandably, friends and relatives of people who suffered calamity would want to honor them. When John Lennon was shot out front of the Dakota in New York, people showed up and placed flowers on the ground where he was slain.
Since then, flowers and crosses and pictures and signs and all sorts of memorabilia have shown up on curbsides and fences and everywhere someone perished in an automobile accident or some other tragic event. It has become so prolific that ordinances have been passed to remove these makeshift memorials from the pedestrian way in many cities. While the public seems to have said enough is enough to these roadside shrines, unfortunately, the public hasn’t done enough to say enough is enough with vanity laws.
So, I have decided to start. ENOUGH ALREADY WITH VANITY LAWS!
In a democracy, no law should bear the name of anyone. Remember, we are supposed to live under the rule of law through the people’s consent. We are not supposed to live under Joe’s direction at the whim of Joe’s weeping relatives.
I know that sounds harsh. But bear with me for a moment, and I will explain my harshness.
Let’s start with “Katie’s Law.” If you enter the search term “Katie’s Law” in Google or another search engine, you will find several different Katie’s Laws. That’s because this craze has gotten so big we are starting to run out of names. But in this case, I am referring to Katie’s Law, which originated in New Mexico.
In 2003, a young woman named Katie Sepich was brutally attacked and murdered in New Mexico. Although police had little clues to go on, they found DNA evidence under the victim’s fingernails. The police entered the DNA into the national DNA database and waited for a match.
Katie’s parents found out that a person is only required to register their DNA in the national database in most states if they are convicted of a felony. They reasoned that if the law was changed to require anyone arrested on a felony charge to give their DNA to authorities, then the perpetrator of the crime against their daughter might be more quickly found. And so they started to create “Katie’s Law,” which requires just that. In January 2007, Katie’s Law was enacted in New Mexico. Since then, anyone arrested on a felony charge in that state must register their DNA in the national DNA database.
Currently, 11 states have laws similar to Katie’s Law, and 26 states are considering enacting the law.
Katie’s parents are correct. If people arrested on felony charges are forced to submit to DNA testing, then some cases will be solved that otherwise would not. The actions on the part of Katie’s parents are also understandable. What happened to their daughter was beyond evil, and their determination to find the person responsible was admirable.
However, what is not understandable nor admirable is the actions of elected officials who put common sense aside and, for political gain, seize upon these passionate issues and usher them into law. When they do this, they do not serve the people. They also do not serve the victim in whose name the law will be enacted.
Katie’s Law is bad. And I say that for four reasons. First, there is the presumption of innocence that we subscribe to under the laws of this land. You and everyone else in this country are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This being true, how can we force people not convicted of a crime to give up their DNA? I can see no difference between demanding that an accused register their DNA and demanding that every person in the U.S. register their DNA.
Now, I am not talking about requiring someone arrested for a specific crime to give DNA to compare to other DNA found at that particular crime scene. Katie’s Law mandates that anyone – for any reason – arrested on a felony charge must submit their DNA to the national DNA registry, which will forever be kept on file.
Secondly, our laws should preclude authorities from forcing anyone to incriminate themself. Every time a person is arrested, police must read them their rights. They are told that they have a right to keep silent. They have a right not to incriminate themselves. But how can we tell someone he has a right to keep his mouth shut but no right to protect himself from genetic testing? What Katie’s Law means is that for any reason whatsoever, police can submit an arrestee’s DNA into the national database to see if they find a match somewhere for some reason. It’s like trolling for a criminal charge.