When individuals engage in certain behaviors, they can reasonably expect that they will face legal consequences if they are caught. For example, most Americans understand that robbery, murder, rape and other straightforward criminal acts are illegal. However, other behaviors are treated in potentially unexpected ways by the nuanced criminal justice system. Even some acts that could be considered violent crime are illegal in some states while they are not considered to be illegal in others.
For example, one could understandably assume that abusing anyone could be considered a criminal act. However, the act of abuse has become an increasingly complex issue over the past several years. One can abuse another over the Internet by engaging in cyberbullying, though states do not deal with this issue uniformly. And while child abuse is widely illegal, abuse of parents by their children is treated differently in different jurisdictions.
Late last month, a Florida lawmaker proposed a bill that would make abuse of parents by their children explicitly and uniquely illegal. While some abusive acts are illegal already, such as assault and battery, this bill would make parental abuse a distinct criminal act. Children who threaten, physically abuse, financially abuse and/or intimidate their parents to varying degrees could be held liable under this law if the bill is passed by the legislature.
Criminal law is supposed to be predictable, so that anyone who commits a crime can reasonably understand that his or her actions are illegal before choosing to carry them out. However, this new nuanced proposal may make some potentially criminal acts a bit less predictable for the public to fully grasp.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Parent abuse would be a crime under proposed law,” Feb. 24, 2014