Louisiana’s Blue Lives Matter Law Does Not Mean What Calder Hebert Thinks It Means
January 23, 2017 (Fault Lines) — We’ve previously covered Louisiana’s Blue Lives Matter law, along with a couple of unsuccessful attempts to enforce it in New Orleans. Unfortunately, it appears that St. Martinville, LA police chief Calder Hebert is not a regular reader of Fault Lines. Or, you know, the laws he’s charged with enforcing.
Hebert is very familiar with the new hate crime law, having already enforced it since it took effect in August.
No, he isn’t.
“Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now,” said Hebert.
No, he didn’t.
What the law actually did was add law enforcement personnel to the list of groups that would permit a sentencing enhancement if the defendant “selected” a victim of certain crimes based on membership in that group.
It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim of the following offenses against person and property because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property or because of actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel:
Here’s the list of qualifying crimes:
[F]irst or second degree murder; manslaughter; battery; aggravated battery; second degree battery; aggravated assault with a firearm; terrorizing; mingling harmful substances; simple or third degree rape, forcible or second degree rape, or aggravated or first degree rape; sexual battery, second degree sexual battery; oral sexual battery; carnal knowledge of a juvenile; indecent behavior with juveniles; molestation of a juvenile or a person with a physical or mental disability; simple, second degree, or aggravated kidnapping; simple or aggravated arson; communicating of false information of planned arson; simple or aggravated criminal damage to property; contamination of water supplies; simple or aggravated burglary; criminal trespass; simple, first degree, or armed robbery; purse snatching; extortion; theft; desecration of graves; institutional vandalism; or assault by drive-by shooting.
The important thing about that list is that resisting arrest ain’t on it. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Resisting arrest is a crime, as it should be. But defendants don’t “select” the police as the “victim” of the crime because of “employment as a law enforcement officer.” They resist arrest because they don’t want to go to jail. This is a trivial detail to Chief Hebert.
Under the new law, Hebert says any offender who resists, or gets physical, with an officer can be charged with a felony hate crime.
For example, if someone who’s arrested for petty theft, a misdemeanor, tries to assault an officer, that individual can be charged with a hate crime. A hate crime is considered a much more serious offense, with serious consequences.
Well, the part about serious consequences is correct, at least. But Hebert’s interpretation is nonsensical. After all, the police make every arrest…so there isn’t anyone else to resist except the police. But in St. Martinsville, the police chief has decided the law is a magic formula to convert a misdemeanor into a felony.
Hate crime laws are a bad idea in general, because a crime isn’t made any better or worse because of who the victim is. The usual rebuttal to that position is that the law already draws such distinctions; like the difference between murder and manslaughter. But hate crime law proponents are confusing motivation and state of mind.
Take the classic law school example, a guy who kills his wife in the heat of passion because he caught her in bed with her lover versus killing her for her life insurance payout. The reason he’d get manslaughter in the former case and murder in the latter isn’t because of the difference between adultery and financial gain. It’s because when he caught he caught his wife in bed, he suffered a provocation that the law recognizes as mitigating his culpability. In the second case, presumably, he had to plan out exactly what he was going to do after reflecting on it. And the cuckold would be charged with murder if he walked out of the bedroom, left the house, and killed his wife after buying a gun.
On the other hand, if you murder a guy by hanging him from a tree while wearing a robe and hood; that’s just as bad as killing a security guard in a bank robbery. They’re both murders. Chief Hebert doesn’t care about any of that.
“These guys go out there everyday and the main goal is to protect the public and go home at the end of the day. This is one step in making that happen. Hopefully, the rest of the nation follows suit,” said Hebert.
In other words, hopefully the rest of the nation passes a bad law, and interprets that law in a way that is, to put it charitably, stupid. Hopefully not.