“Victimless Crimes” Should Be Decriminalized

A “victimless crime” is any activity that does not physically harm a person or property of another, or to which the act was in fact consented and is currently illegal if based on statutory laws. In a victimless crime, there is no apparent victim and no apparent pain or injury. The crimes most often described as “victimless” include prostitution, gaming, and illicit drug use, especially marijuana and cocaine (often called “recreational” drugs).

A classic example of a victimless crime is consensual sodomy. If both parties to the act are adults (i.e., over the age of 18), acting of their own free will, and the act takes place in the privacy of their own home, a hotel or motel, or other private room, who gets hurt if two people willingly participate in sodomy? No one. For years many states had laws on the book prohibiting sodomy, even among consenting adults acting of their own free will. The United States Supreme Court ruled that two adults—even of the same sex—engaging in sodomy of their own free will in private could not be charged with a criminal offense.

While some people may believe sodomy to be immoral or “unnatural,” their morals should not be used as the basis to prohibit certain types of sexual conduct between consenting adults that does not involve the infliction of pain or injury. If some people had their way, the only form of sexual intercourse that would be permitted would be the missionary position between a man and woman, and even then they would permit sex only for the purpose of procreation, not recreation. Similarly, pornography should be legal, so long as it does not involve children or participants who are unwilling or coerced into acting.

As far as prostitution goes, if an adult man—or an adult woman, for that matter—wants to engage in sexual relations with an adult woman or man who charges a fee for his or her services, both of them should be able to do that without either one of them being guilty of a crime. That does not mean that prostitution should be completely from the law. Prostitutes should be subject to certain laws, such as health laws. For instance, a prostitute should be required to have a medical test done every, say, three months to see whether he or she is HIV positive or has any other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, or genital herpes.

The growing, sale, and use of marijuana should be legalized. If marijuana use were legal, the government could impose a sales tax on it and generate substantial revenue. Marijuana is one of the largest cash crops going. Of course, users of marijuana would still be subject to other laws, such as driving under the influence of marijuana just as driving under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.

The era of Prohibition—from 1919, when the 18th Amendment was ratified until 1933, when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment—is a good argument for legalizing drug use. When alcohol use was outlawed in 1919, criminals flourished. Mobsters such as Al Capone made a fortune running bootleg liquor into the local speakeasies. Several crime syndicates fought gang wars over whose turf it was to supply liquor in various areas and oversee other criminal activity, such as gaming, prostitution, and pornography. Drug cartels have taken the place of the mobsters and have sophisticated means of importing and supplying illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

The countries where coca plants or poppies are grown that eventually find themselves on the illegal drug market as cocaine or heroin, respectively, do not go after the growers of such plants and flowers as much as rabidly as some people think they should, as their growth and sale are the livelihood of many of its peasants, who would be hard-pressed to find an alternate means of making a living if they were not permitted to grow their products. Adults should have the right to use so-called recreational drugs in the privacy of their own home without fear that they may be arrested.

Euthanasia—also known as physician-assisted suicide—is another act that should be decriminalized. In fact, two states—Oregon and Washington—permit euthanasia if the letter of the law is followed. In Oregon and Washington, a person may choose physician-assisted suicide if the person is terminally ill with less than six months to live, makes the appropriate number of requests to end his or her life orally and in writing, and meets all the other procedural and substantive criteria specified in the law.

Our prisons are already overcrowded with dangerous felons and it is a farce that persons convicted of victimless crimes are imprisoned by their side. In fact, because of constitutional requirements and court mandates regulating the number of inmates a prison may be allowed to accommodate, felons who have committed real and serious crimes are being set free from prisons before serving their full terms. Victimless crimes should be recognized for what they are, and the legal authorities would better serve the people by concentrating on real crimes against people and property.


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