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A lot to digest: ongoing accretion of new criminal laws, penalties

A fundamental and flatly central underpinning of the American criminal justice system is that a person charged with a crime understand that he or she engaged in criminal activity.

Without such knowledge, punishment rings hollow. Where is the deterrent effect on such a person or like-minded others if an intent to do wrong was lacking? Where is society's satisfaction in wreaking retribution if sanctions aren't even remotely linked to a preceding criminal motive?

And, importantly, how can respect be earned by an enforcement mechanism that can seemingly punish citizens in select instances for infractions they didn't even know were outside the bounds of law?

There is no question that the United States is a nation of law.

Sometimes, though, that can be a bit of a problem and a slippery slope, given the progressively expanding portfolio of conduct that is deemed illegal under state and federal enactments.

That is to say, state and national legislators are constantly adding to the ledger of what constitutes criminal activity. Statutory penal provisions in North Carolina and all other states are ever growing in size and scope, making it a difficult proposition for individuals to keep abreast on activities that -- perhaps once lawful -- are now taboo.

An example of the ballooning "new crimes" playbook was recently provided by an article denoting a number of new criminal laws that recently took effect in North Carolina.

Those range widely, from new crimes/penalties drafted in the realm of adult care homes to new safety demands placed on the makers of materials used in e-cigarettes. Ride operators at amusement parks have more to think about. A number of synthetic drugs that were formerly not classified as Schedule 1 products are now labeled with that designation. So-called "revenge porn" is now an escalated concern of authorities, with heightened criminal penalties having been drafted. GPS tracking is now deemed cyberstalking.

The point: New laws are always needed, of course, but their ongoing accretion can muddy the distinction between lawful activity and criminal conduct in certain instances.

Questions regarding a criminal charge can be directed to an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.

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