Page 1 of 1

Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:58 pm UTC
by setzer777
Something from an abortion discussion in N&A has me wondering about this.

From what I understand advocating unlawful acts can be restricted/punished if it is judged to be inciting those acts. Does this apply to acts that are currently lawful but may become unlawful? That is, advocating that someone, in the event that an act becomes unlawful, perform that act anyway?

The specific example that started me wondering about this was abortion. If an organzation tells everyone: "In the event that abortion becomes illegal in your region, the easiest way to obtain one is to do XYZ." Are they breaking the law? I guess in this specific instance it is muddied since I believe at-home abortions are illegal already. But I'm curious about the general principle.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:08 pm UTC
by lutzj
If you convince people to do illegal things without giving them fair warning that they're breaking the law, or if you're a public official/person in a position of authority that's entrapment.

If you plan out a specific crime with somebody, you're guilty of conspiracy.

Outside of those situations and others that have nothing to do with the illegality of whatever act you're advocating, I'm pretty sure you're within the realm of protected speech in the US and similar countries.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:16 pm UTC
by c_programmer
setzer777 wrote:Something from an abortion discussion in N&A has me wondering about this.

From what I understand advocating unlawful acts can be restricted/punished if it is judged to be inciting those acts. Does this apply to acts that are currently lawful but may become unlawful? That is, advocating that someone, in the event that an act becomes unlawful, perform that act anyway?

The specific example that started me wondering about this was abortion. If an organzation tells everyone: "In the event that abortion becomes illegal in your region, the easiest way to obtain one is to do XYZ." Are they breaking the law? I guess in this specific instance it is muddied since I believe at-home abortions are illegal already. But I'm curious about the general principle.

The principle is that if you directly cause harm though your words, such as yelling "Kill the pigs! Kill the cops!" in a near-riot, you may be responsible for it (the situation has greatly become less of a grey area since that instance). The same also goes for yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater, if someone gets trampled to death in the following chaos you may be charged with it. In general advocating an illegal act is OK, you can get up and say that killing cops is a good thing and that the more cops that don't come home the better the world is. What you can't do is see an officer and direct people to kill him. These situations are decided by state courts for the most part and can change though time. Sometimes fringe situations get burned.

How-to guides are protected free speech. I have a few hundred books on my hard drive on how to make explosives, silencers and improvised firearms. If I were to make any of them I would land myself in jail but it is legal to write, publish and read this material.

The other legal precedent that is relevant here is that to charge someone with a crime it must have been illegal at the time of the act.

edit: This only applies to US law.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:21 pm UTC
by EdgarJPublius
Generally, in civilized and well-functioning legal systems, you can't be convicted for doing something that isn't currently illegal, nor for something that wasn't illegal when you did it.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:32 am UTC
by Metaphysician
EdgarJPublius wrote:Generally, in civilized and well-functioning legal systems, you can't be convicted for doing something that isn't currently illegal, nor for something that wasn't illegal when you did it.


This.

Holding somebody accountable to a law that did not exist when they performed an act would be ex post facto law. This is generally not practiced in modern civilized societies.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:02 am UTC
by aoeu
EdgarJPublius wrote:Generally, in civilized and well-functioning legal systems, you can't be convicted for doing something that isn't currently illegal, nor for something that wasn't illegal when you did it.

But is it currently illegal to pressure somebody to do something even if it becomes outlawed?

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:08 am UTC
by ahammel
aoeu wrote:But is it currently illegal to pressure somebody to do something even if it becomes outlawed?


Huh? Are you asking if it's legal now to advocate acts that will become illegal in the future?

The...uh...the question answers itself.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:22 am UTC
by setzer777
Well, what I was referring to in the original post is telling somebody: "If this act becomes illegal, you should circumvent the law to keep doing it, and here's how."

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:41 am UTC
by ahammel
setzer777 wrote:Well, what I was referring to in the original post is telling somebody: "If this act becomes illegal, you should circumvent the law to keep doing it, and here's how."

I don't think it's even illegal to say "this act is illegal now, but you should circumvent the law to keep doing it and here's how". You might be able to make a case for conspiracy in some cases, but I doubt it.

Even so, it's not illegal. Say I schedule a game of Dungeons and Dragons next week, but tomorrow parliament1 passes a law making D&D illegal. I'm still not guilty of conspiracy to play D&D. It wasn't illegal when I did it, and even if it's made illegal at some later date I'm protected by the ex post facto doctirine.

1. Or congress. I believe the law is the same in Canada and the US on this point.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:36 am UTC
by c_programmer
ahammel wrote: ex post facto doctirine.

Thank you, the name of that doctrine has been bugging me all evening.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:26 am UTC
by Qaanol
I advocate breaking all future laws that are unjust.

If criticizing the government becomes illegal, criticize the government.
If being a whistleblower becomes illegal, be a whistleblower.
If accessing certain public restrooms becomes illegal for people your race, sex, or other demographic category, continue using those public restrooms.
If using and sharing creative works more than 28 years after their original date of publication becomes illegal—oh, looks like I advocate breaking current laws that are unjust too.

Re: Advocating Future Unlawful Acts

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:26 am UTC
by moiraemachy
IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that in legalese, every time you read something as "unlawful act" you are supposed to be able to replace it by a list of everything the law currently defines as "unlawful act". Meta stuff like considering alternate law systems would be a can of worms.