Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Criminal vs Civil

I've noticed an alarming trend lately in which prosecutors are criminalizing behavior that used to be handled in the civil courts. The example that comes to mind is a series of cases being handled by an attorney friend in Ohio, Ken Sheets.

Ken's client is a contractor. As a regular part of his business he enters into contracts for construction. It may be improvements to a dwelling, building a barn or even new construction. The contract, inartfully drafted because he wrote it instead of retaining the services of a lawyer, generally provides that he must begin work within a number of months and sets no end time.

He has been arrested several times because the homeowner has complained to the authorities that he "stole" their money by not doing the work. In each case, the arrest came within the time period that the contract provided for him to begin work.


Since when did a contract dispute become a criminal matter? And how can a prosecutor bring charges for theft, in good faith, when it is still possible for him to perform under the terms of the contract?

What all this brings home to me is the fact that perhaps it's time to revisit the whole idea of prosecutorial immunity. If prosecutors could be sued for their charge/no-charge decisions, perhaps they would make them more carefully. In all honesty, what appears to be happening to this guy is that someone in authority has it in for him and is using the theft statutes to harass him out of business.

This simply shouldn't be allowed.


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