Vague Law + Vindictive Law Enforcement? Hide Your Veggies!

from the this-is-not-how-things-are-supposed-to-work dept

You may have heard the recent story about Julie Bass, a woman in Oak Park, Michigan, who was facing 93 days in jail... for daring to plant a nice vegetable garden in her front yard. Apparently, the city has a rule that says you can have "decorative planting" in your front yard, but some city officials deemed that the vegetable garden was not decorative. The specific law, of course, is vague. It says: "all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material." The problem is in the word "suitable." Many folks, including Bass, believe vegetables are suitable. The city disagrees, and was threatening her with 93 days in jail for not removing the garden.

On Friday, the charges were apparently dismissed. While most reports suggested that officials dropped the case, Bass's own blog claims that a judge dismissed them, though the details were hazy (at best). But, here's where it gets ridiculous. First, the dismissal was "without prejudice," so the charges can be brought again. But... even more crazy is that now the city is going after her for not having licenses for her two dogs, an issue that was brought up earlier, and which she quickly fixed.

As lots of people are saying, it appears that the city is just being vindictive to Bass.

This is why broadly worded laws scare me. This is why the broadly worded definition of what counts as an "infringing site" in PROTECT IP scares me. This is why the vagueness of S.978, the felony streaming bill, scares me. They can easily be abused to put people in jail just for embedding videos. What the Julie Bass story shows is that when law enforcement feels vindictive, there's no law they won't try to twist against people. And we shouldn't be handing law enforcement more ammo by giving them vaguely worded laws that potentially make huge segments of the population into felons.

Jail time for veggie gardens is nothing if they can put you away for embedding a video on your website.

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  1. icon
    Gabriel Tane (profile), 18 Jul 2011 @ 8:07am

    Re:

    I have the ever-growing list of crimes in Animal Farm going through my head now.

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