A new Los Angeles City ordinance makes throwing a Frisbee or ball on LA City beaches a crime punishable by a $1000 dollar fine. Of course, should you fail to pay the fine, armed men dressed in black costumes will throw you into a cage.
The new ordinance violates a principle of law called “mens rea.” Actually, the violation of mens rea pretty much applies to all laws that do not involve theft or violence. At any rate, mens rea means “guilty mind.” Ergo, in order for something to be considered criminal, the person engaging in the activity should have an understanding that what they are doing is inherently wrong.
Originally this principle came about by simply looking at the golden rule. Say if a person did something to another person, if a reasonable person wouldn’t want that act done to themselves, it leads to the conclusion that the actor should have known better. In modern law, this principle has been subverted and turned completely on its head. As wiki points out for us, the test now means:
Prior to the 1960s, mens rea in the United States was a very slippery, vague and confused concept. Since then, the formulation of mens rea set forth in the Model Penal Code has been highly influential throughout North America in clarifying the discussion of the different modes of culpability.
- Purposefully: the actor has the “conscious object” of engaging in conduct and believes or hopes that the attendant circumstances exist.
- Knowingly: the actor is practically certain that his conduct will lead to the result.
- Recklessly: the actor is aware that the attendant circumstances exist, but nevertheless engages in the conduct that a “law-abiding person” would have refrained from.
- Negligently: the actor is unaware of the attendant circumstances and the consequences of his conduct, but a “reasonable person” would have been aware.
- Strict liability: the actor engaged in conduct and his mental state is irrelevant.
I submit to you that no reasonable person could possibly construe throwing a Frisbee on a public beach to be a crime. Throwing a Frisbee near some third party and then running them over as you attempt to catch it SHOULD be something that has consequences for negligent behavior. However, that is not what this fine is all about. People throw Frisbees on crowded beaches all the time and never hurt anyone in their play. No one in their right mind (other than LA County bureaucrats) would ever construe simply throwing a Frisbee to be a criminal act.
Since no one with more than two brain cells would ever think that throwing a Frisbee is a crime, the ordinance itself violates the mens rea principle. I also submit to you that drug laws, gun laws, and all permits also violate the mens rea principle. I want to point out that it doesn’t matter if the city posts signs all over the beaches warning people that throwing a Frisbee is a crime as far as violating this principle is concerned. Since the law itself violates the principle, by common law definition it can’t be magically turned into a crime simply because the city says so.
Not that my argument matters. Men with guns say throwing a Frisbee is a crime and if you engage in said act, they will expropriate $1000 dollars from your hide one way or another.
Because Amerika is the land of the free.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the ordinance also makes digging a hole in the sand deeper than 18 inches a crime – just in case you were planning on taking your kids to the beach so they could build sand castles.
exceptions for designated areas, permits, water polo in the ocean, and permission from fire chief/lifeguards.