New York State Crime Victims Board
Crime Victims Board
Is it constitutional to take away money from a person although it was gained for an interview with a publisher about one’s past crimes? Is it constitutional to take the money and give it to the victim of these past crimes? Does this or does not contradict the First Amendment which allows to express one’s mind freely with no discrimination concerning the context? The dispute over the Son of Sam law can be lead down to one question: whether speaking about crime is also a crime. Obviously, there could be two answers, one negative, and another one positive. According to the Son of Sam law, there is only one interpretation: if a person, who committed or was convicted in committing a crime, describes his or her crimes, the profits of this action should be deposited in an escrow account. In such case, the money is available, not for the speaker, but for the victims of the speaker’s crimes. The reasoning behind the Son of Sam may seem simple, but it has a lot of pitfalls. We must all agree that committing a crime is wrong, as well as profiting from it is also wrong. On the other hand, where is the line which separates the crime and legal action? Is it a crime to describe a crime? When we look at it this way, we can see the controversy between the Son of Sam law and the First Amendment, which says that no burden can be placed on the speaker because of the content of the speech. This way the Son of Sam law can be interpreted as discrimination, and from this perspective it is unconstitutional and biased.
Son of Sam Law
Despite that, the Son of Sam law still brings a lot of disputes. Although the ruling abolished it, the Son of Sam law can be constitutional if it is written very carefully, not to conflict with the First Amendment. In fact, there are a lot of similar laws throughout the states, so this law can be modified in many ways. The significance of this law is in the pressure it puts on people speaking about crimes; and the financial side of the matter. It is obvious that a victim should be compensated for the crime, but speaking about crime is not part of the crime, which means that the speaker does not have to compensate for that. Also, there is the question of morals. There is a possibility that the speaker had already served his term in prison. Taking that into account, he had already paid for his crimes and is a “clean” person now. Then, why should such a person pay one more time for the crimes, but this time financially? There is also logical gap: if the person who speaks about his crime does not profit out of it, what will his or her motivation be to do it? If the speaker does not get paid, he might not speak at all. Consider another flaw of this law: it is when a person who was not even convicted of a crime speaks of this crime. Another problem is whether all of the crimes deserve this penalty; examples are Jess Jackson and Bertrand Russell. Would it be moral for a victim to take the money gained from the book knowing that the person behind it has changed after spending the term in prison?
As we can see, there is a lot of ambiguity in the Son of Sam law; it does try to protect the victims, but at the same time it victimizes the ex-criminals. Logically, why should a person who was already punished for the crime, get another punishment for the same thing?