MyOpinion Thevoid-for-vagueness doctrine has made it unconstitutional for state or federalgovernments to deny a person of life, liberty, or property unless they haveundergone due process. The reasoning behind this doctrine is because it isunfair if a person is unaware of what a law actually forbids, and they arecharged for breaking it. If a law is really vague, without it actually statingspecifics of what defies the law, it makes it hard to apply it to a variety ofdifferent situations.
Therefore, if a person is unaware that the law forbids aspecific thing, even though the law is over-broad, and they are punished forbreaking that law, then their life, liberty, or property is taken from themunjustly. My opinion is that this doctrine was a good decision to put in toplace, as if a law is unfairly vague, and if I were charged for something thatwas not clearly defined, I would want this doctrine in place. This doctrine isnot without Issues Involved Thereare a few different issues involved with the void-for-vagueness doctrine.Firstly, how does one define which laws are “vague” and which are specificenough, so that an individual is fairly charged. It is hard to define what isvague for every single law; vagueness depends on each law’s specifics. Ourwritten out laws will never be perfect, also, because every situation isdifferent. We can only account for the laws already in place and for situationswe have already experienced or imagined could happen.
Fair notice is alsoimportant within this doctrine. With this, it is fair knowledge that a law isbroken if a reasonable person would be aware that they were breaking the law orperforming a criminal act. Beforethis doctrine, one could be charged with an abundance of criminal behavior thatwas not specifically “criminal” as according to the law.
With this law,specifics, or specific situations and examples, are written into the law sothere are no confusions with the individual charged, the officers, the judge,lawyers, or the jury. If one commits an act that is reasonably criminal, butthe law is vague, then they are let off, even though their act may have beencriminally and morally wrong. This doctrine helps enforce the fact that the lawsneed to be specific so that that exact situation does not take place. Thevoid-for-vagueness doctrine protects the people against void laws that does notoutline what is illegal and from the procedures that the officers, judges, orlaw enforcement performs. In the case of Lanzetta v. New Jersey (1939),the New Jersey statute was vague when they defined what a gang was, saying itwas a group of “two or more people.” Also, the said the person could not be”engaged in any lawful occupation,” however, these two combined, along with thestatutes’ other statements, were too vague to define a “gangster,” and fairnotice was not applied.
One could not say beyond a doubt that Lanzetta and theother members knew their activity was illegal under that statute. Conclusion Fora law to be so vague that one needs to guess or assume what they are doing iscriminal or not is simply unconstitutional. The void-for-vagueness doctrineattempts to put specifics into place for laws, so that a reasonable personwould know their activity is illegal under the law, and so that an officer doesnot have to use his or her own opinion and decide which activities are illegalor not. When a law is so vague, it gives more power to law enforcement, as theywould get to decide what situations or activities to charge for and decide thatanother that is similar is not illegal.
To leave it up to a person’s opinion isnot what the U.S Constitution intended. The passing of a law goes through manypeople to vote and agree on to protect the people of our nation, not for one todecide when certain situations arise. That is why the Supreme Court is inplace, so that if a situation we have never dealt with arises, they cancollectively decide if something is unconstitutional.
ReferencesU.S Supreme Court case, Lanzetta v. New Jersey,306 U.S. 451 (1939), No.