California Governor Jerry Brown is contemplating the signing of a bill to remove the word ‘lynching’ from a decades-old state law, which makes use of the word to denote the act of wrestling a detainee from police custody. Since the arrest of a black activist during a Sacramento demonstration, lawmakers and supporters have been calling for a change, citing the irony of the activist having been charged under a law which was originally supposed to protect black detainees from lynch mobs. The bill was unanimously passed in California legislature following the uproar,
What Would the Bill do?
The bill would change the language of the law to remove any mention of the word ‘lynching’, while keeping the law and its penalties essentially unchanged. The usage of the word came under fire for being outdated and obsolete in today’s society, as lynching is a particularly sensitive issue in African-American circles. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the lynching of African-Americans was relatively commonplace, particularly in the Southern states, and the use of the word has become somewhat taboo so if you need an attorney in Boston to handle your criminal defense case. Supporters have also called for the word to be struck from the penal code, stating its application as inappropriate.
What Does This Mean?
In terms of the actual application of the law in question, not much will change. The crime of wresting a detainee will continue to be a felony – as will the killing of a person by mob action – and the punishment – between two and four years in state prison – will remain the same. The matter is more one of legal sensitivity and the updating of existing laws for modern times. The law in question was drafted in 1933, and has since become outdated in its language. For this reason, it is important for lawmakers to cast their eyes back over previous laws to remove sensitive and outdated language and make the laws applicable to today’s society. If the law falls behind the society which it was written to protect, it ceases to be an effective safeguard. The activist in question has had their charges reduced to resisting arrest, which is a misdemeanor.
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