“Not Thickness of Chains but Strength of Ideals” Erika Silaco
|Category: Civil Rights Lovefest|
Regional Influence: Eminence Grise
Location: The Vast
Time in the Clink - Touchy Subjects - Citizenship and Immigration - But What About...
Origins of the Law
Amendments to the Constitution require a seventy percent majority vote of both the Senate and the People and are one of the very few instances in which the everyday citizens of Sunset directly decide government policy rather than working through their elected representatives in the Senate. Most of the Amendments enacted thus far have been matters of clarification, such as those defining an individual to only include sentient beings and not corporations, committees, or parties, or changes in how the structures of government are composed. The most notable is the shift to a single legislative body - the Senate - instead of a bicameral Congress and the removal of the office of the President to make each branch of the Secretariat its own Executive.
The Evolution of Government
Much of the reason why the Republic's Federal-level government has evolved the way it has is because of the wide variety of sentient species and cultures that it now includes. Fixed declarations based on subjective cultural norms have become impossible now that any one of these might be violated by the basic biology of a half-dozen other species. When is an individual no longer a minor? When are they able to give informed consent? When does an individual's biology render them able to consume a substance without negative effects? If the Federal government were to determine all of these factors as static values, the government would grind to a halt under the burden of processing the simplest of interactions.
What this has essentially resulted in is the Federal government moving most of these responsibilities back to the individual and taking on the role of contract enforcement. Don't sign anything unless you mean it. There are nearly three hundred different sentient species in Sunset, which introduces a mind-boggling number of possible romantic, sexual, or reproductive interactions, mating rituals, and the like. The Government's position is that it should have no position in matters of the heart, ritual, or religion unless they violate the rights of an involved sentient. Most individuals who wish to co-habitat in Sunset do it via a simple contract that lays out the responsibilities of all involved parties. These contracts are easy to fill out and file and often have easy to add sub-clauses for things like sexual exclusivity, non-exclusivity, pooling of funds, and similar common arrangements.
Facts Versus Opinions
As indicated, the laws of the Republic are very much focused on facts. Killing someone is illegal because one person absolutely did something to another but insulting someone's religion or making a mockery of it is not simply because, unless there is a physical interaction, it does nothing to another individual. Laws based on the nebulous concept of Causing Offense are non-existent. If a specific action cannot be proved to have a specific physical effect on the person or property of another, it is not a crime. A notable example is Incitement; While a rabble-rouser might encourage or call for violence against others, it is still the responsibility of those who acted on these calls. This is different than Commission; Someone who pays someone else to murder, rob, or otherwise harm the person or possessions of another is just as guilty as the offender. They have made it clear by their commission as to their intention.
So what other laws does that rule out in Sunset?
There are no hate crimes. It was assault, it was murder, it was robbery, or it was theft. By punishing the motivation for the crime rather than the crime itself that elevates the importance of the motivation over justice for the victim. That is one of the key areas of Republic law as opposed to others; It is not about punishment as much as it is justice. Focusing on punishment still leaves the victim unsatisfied. This is also one of the primary reasons why most punishments are based around fines and other forms of restitution. These give satisfaction to the victim and punishment to the offender rather than food, water, and shelter to the offender while putting the burden of paying for these onto the same victim through taxation.
It should be noted that the introduction of the Universal Basic Resources scheme has added a new wrinkle to the criminal justice system. As noted, most crimes are resolved through fines but the UBR provides a basic guaranteed level of support for all citizens, even criminals. Any fines levied are thus not taken out of the UBR but instead leveled against the criminal's PEI - Personal Employment Income. These fines are always paid first from any earned PEI. Working 'under the table' or outside the Republic as a way to avoid payment of these fines is a crime. Useful to those affected by a crime, the leveled fine and the restitution for it is applied immediately to the individual's PEI - it is up to the government to recover the funds, not the individual harmed by the criminal. Again, forcing the victim to wait on the criminal to potentially pay their fine would be a miscarriage of justice.
Moral Crimes... Are Not
Prostitution? Not a crime. If someone wants to sell the use of their body for whatever reason, so be it. It's their body, they can do what they want with it. In most cases prostitution is regulated by the local property owner and is subject to standard business licensing and requirements. That's outside of the Federal level however. An individual who is doing a purely cash transaction can invite someone into their house and have sex for money with no problems.
However, forcing someone into prostitution is generally considered slavery as well as rape. Whether this is through violence, drug addiction, or manipulation, the punishment can be quite severe. Slavery is considered one of the most heinous of crimes in the Republic, though very hard to commit against the average citizen. The general punishment for that is spending a long time paying off a massive fine to pay for the income denied to that individual - times three - with two-thirds being returned to the victim.
Pornography? The same thing. But seriously? Kiddie stuff? Not okay. It's usually considered rape and violators will spend a lot of time picking apples to pay for therapy and any medical expenses incurred - times three. The same applies to something like snuff porn; While the government can't prosecute those who view it, they can prosecute those who made it for murder unless the viewer encouraged it or paid to make it happen. The government can't punish someone for doing something to themselves, however. Doing drugs? Not a crime. Smoking pot and clogging up the air filters? There might be a fine if the local building code doesn't allow smoking.
Suicide? Not a crime. Probably a pretty rare event anyway, given that mental health care no longer has the same stigma associated with it that it once did. Mental health is now viewed the same as physical health; Receiving treatment for a mental health condition is as normal as being treated for any physical ailment. That isn't to say that it doesn't happen but there are a lot of ways to escape the perceived drudgery of real life or to change one's condition.
Your Home Is Your Castle
If you actually own it, that is. As little as one might think it has to do with the Government, the concepts of private property end up being very important in Sunset. The simple fact is that unless you are moderately wealthy or live on one of the smaller colony worlds, you don't own the place where you live. Call it an apartment, a condo, a high-rise, but it's likely you're paying a lease or rent to a corporation that owns it. In the early days this was necessary because only corporations with large pools of capital could afford to build the complex systems necessary for life on a hostile planet. What does all this mean as regards the law? Well, it means that depending on where you live there might be a whole other set of rules that govern what you can and cannot do. One of the most common questions out there is 'What about the Second Amendment? Can I own a nuclear bomb?' You sure can! If you can afford it, of course, but the big question is 'Where do you put it?'
There are practically zero corporations in the Republic that will let you enter their property with a nuclear device. Period. Many also have regulations that prevent open carrying of weaponry, or weapons above a certain size, or any number of other conditions. Do people flout these regulations? Sure. Generally the penalty for doing such is removal from the property in question; Getting kicked out of your apartment. The same applies to things like smoking. Is smoking bad for you? Yes. Can the government make a law against it? No. But the corporations can put in place regulations that only allow smoking in private dwellings, and there will be a fee for excessive use of the ventilation systems. Thus it is as hard to find a place to light up as it is to find a place to keep a nuclear bomb.
However the corporations understand that there is a trade-off to be made. They want people to live in their properties so they can't have the restrictions be too harsh. But they also want to be able to charge good prices which means providing nice services and locations that justify those prices. Again, a trade off. If you look hard enough you can find what you're looking for in terms of a place to live, even if you want to live surrounded by guns and smoking a big cigar while looking down from a high place on the peasants below - just expect to pay a lot in return.
Private property is also important in terms of the environment and environmental regulation. Technically there are no regulations on what an individual can do to their own property and this is a distinctly important point. When Sunset was first established on Mars, there was no specific need for environmental protection regulations since it was a cold and lifeless ball of red rock. While that has since changed, the law has essentially evolved into 'you mess it up, you clean it up.' You. That's right, not 'Mega-Corporation Polluters Limited', but you 'Mr. CEO and Dumper-In-Chief'. If you ordered the dumping of toxins that created negative health effects for someone then you personally are responsible for their rehabilitation and the rehabilitation of their property.
If it was malicious, that is that you deliberately dumped or produced something toxic while knowing about the negative side effects then it becomes a criminal matter and the damages triple. That said, most companies try to find the safest middle ground. They want to be efficient and profitable, and they want to avoid excessive liability. There is insurance of course, but the insurance companies are just as loath to cover a company that is being willfully negligent in its approach to the property of others.
Now, there is the big question of why an industry is polluting in the first place. The primary power source for all civilian infrastructure is electricity generated by big fusion reactors buried deep underground. They are clean, efficient, and require little more than seawater to continue to run. Spaceships use the same thing, and starships use exotic power sources that will give you nosebleeds if you think about them too much. Not a lot of pollution compared to the horribly dirty fossil fuels of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Even then what results is often usable in other areas of industry where one company's waste gas might be another's essential element.
The UBR and You
Since it has been mentioned a lot in other places, let's add a little bit more about the Republic's Universal Basic Resources scheme as well as its companion program, the PEI or Personal Employment Income. Both programs are automatic to all Republic citizens, whether at home or abroad. The UBR is a monthly stipend compensated to all Republic citizens that is intended to cover the first two tiers of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; that is, Physiological & Safety. The second - the PEI - can then be used by the individual to either enhance the first two tiers or accomplish the top three; Love, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.
The UBR stipend is balanced so as to allow a single individual to live what would be considered an upper-middle class life across the average price range in the Republic. Since those costs vary widely, there is no stipulated usage for the UBR; an individual can live in a cardboard box eating ramen and wearing a garbage bag while pocketing the rest if they so choose. Interestingly, the universal introduction of the UBR scheme at the beginning of '176 sparked renewed interest in large families - non-immigrant birth rates have been dropping for decades previous - with the obvious benefit being that a large family can pool their UBRs to enjoy a more lavish lifestyle than a single individual. And yes - there were a lot of marriage contracts signed then too.
Accompanying the UBR is the PEI scheme, where anyone who works is compensated equally for the time they spend working according to a specific formula; for every hour worked an individual receives .10% of the total UBR stipend. By working 10% of the hours in a year, they would then receive a PEI equal to their original UBR stipend. The amount that one can work isn't limited, however the amount of monthly PEI is limited to 50% of the total hours in a Month (10% of a Year). Any additional hours are credited to the next Month, rolling forward until they can be credited at under this 50% level.
These two schemes are expected to have vast effects on the Republic economy and culture. Already the commodities market has essentially disappeared while consumer goods only cost marginally more than the amount of material required to manufacture them. Meanwhile services have become more expensive - paying someone else to do something costs exactly as much as they are paid, and everyone is paid equally for their time. As a specific example, most people now cook and eat at home with eating out being reserved for special occasions and typically done as the exclusive guest of a expert chef.
The introduction of the UBR is also expected to have a considerable impact on immigration - or at least citizenship applications. The Republic does not have a residency requirement for citizenship, though an individual must apply for citizenship on sovereign territory. This means that a resident of an entity that hosts diplomatic representation from the Republic can enter a consulate or diplomatic mission, sign the paperwork applying for Republic citizenship, and - assuming there are no barriers to that application - immediately receive their guaranteed stipend. Of course, this then makes them a citizen of the Republic of Sunset with all the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities that entails...
Did You Know?
The punishment for crimes in Sunset follows the Rule of
Three. If damage is done or repayment required, the
amount to be repaid will be three times the damage done
or value lost. Typically one-third goes to the State and
two-thirds to the victim, with the victim having first priority
in case complete repayment cannot be immediately made.
There are both individuals and corporations that make a
good profit off investigating potential crimes and making
the government aware of them in return for that one-third
Time in the Clink
Very, very rare. Theft is punished by fine, assault is punished by fine, battery is... You get the picture. Prisons are stupid. They punish society more than the criminal by forcing society to pay for the criminal's upkeep. They also put criminals in close contact with other criminals where they can plan new crimes, prepare for them, and network. Theft is punished by a fine equal to three times the new value of the good or service stolen. One third goes to the state to offset the cost of the court and officers, the other two thirds goes to the victim to recompense the lost good or service and the loss of access to that item.
Most crimes in the Republic are committed by the young and reckless and they follow a typical pattern; A youth offender will commit an act of vandalism, assault, petty theft, or similar and they will be caught and their PEI (Personal Employment Income) will be docked, making the point clear - not to mention the embarrassment of a trial and conviction. Occasionally they will re-offend, but only very rarely will it lead to the point of confinement and rehabilitation. Based on government statistics, the number of individuals inside the system at any one time is statistically insignificant. For the most part these are murderers - of any age - who have had their sentence commuted by the family or contract representative of those they killed to a life sentence.
While the concept of debt-labor was previously present in the Republic, this has disappeared completely with the introduction of the UBR (Universal Basic Resources) scheme and the accompanying PEI (Personal Employment Income). Since most crimes are compensated with fines, an individual who commits and is then convicted of a crime will find their PEI docked an appropriate amount - see the Rule of Three. If the individual's PEI is docked to a certain point - a year's UBR - then the individual can be ordered into confinement and rehabilitation. In the case of those with an Exo or EienCortex, this is a virtual course of rehabilitation in a setting designed to reinforce positive behavior, build successful life strategies, and manage the issues that created the socially detrimental situation in the first place. Since the number of individuals without one of these two systems are very low, a very small number of institutions exist to handle these specific cases.
In general, the jail system is used for holding and processing the accused until they can be tried. While most trials are held on the street or at the arresting location via virtual connection, some can require enough time to gather evidence that holding a suspect may be necessary. If this can be avoided via bail it is but sometimes, such as in the case of attempted murder or other crimes where an individual is clearly motivated to do harm to another, jail is necessary.
After transport, the suspect be put into an airlock where they'll be decontaminated and scanned for any kind of weapons. A robotic arm will disarm them if they don't do it themselves, and they'll be moved into a holding cell. Since they aren't assumed to be guilty, they'll have full access to whatever they brought with them unless it can reasonable allow an escape attempt. They'll keep their clothes and whatever else they brought with them as long as it's not a threat to the facility. Nothing is provided except for a meal every eight hours or so that will fulfill the basic nutritional requirements of their species unless the individual pays for it. Ideally this will be a very short period (typically less than a day) and they'll be let out again to face trial. If, for some reason, they're going to be in jail long-term then this is pretty much what can be expected.
Are they a bad-ass super-soldier with an ax to grind who can defecate high explosives and spit acid? Fantastic; Cut the criminal's head off using a Decap-a-Donut and they can think about being a bad-ass in the middle of their cold cell. Cyborg? Pull the brain case. Unless the species is completely unknown to the Republic, the prison AI will look them up, see what they can do, and take appropriate steps. Or they could just not break what few laws the Republic has in the first place.
A tricky subject as it is really as much of a question about just when an individual becomes a conscious sentient. Does that happen the moment the cord is cut? When the brain develops beyond a certain level of complexity? By that standard there are people out there who are physically adult but not sentient. Free will? How does one determine that when the subject can't talk? It's also a complex subject because the Republic has a lot of non-Human species - over a hundred at the last official count.
For Example: The Ewkoo Uh Va is an aquatic species that gives birth to millions of young. They are sprayed into the water and left without care. Some will reach a stage where a biological change causes them to grow a complex nervous system and, in a matter of weeks, become sentient. Before this they are on the level of bacteria in terms of intelligence and before this stage they are also delicious with adults selling a large number of their spawn to restaurants to be battered and deep fried. They then use the funds to raise more of their young to the stage where they can achieve sentience and with more of the modern conveniences and technologies that would otherwise be unavailable.
Is this abortion? Or just pragmatism? Every one of those young has the potential to advance to sentience but in the wild ninety-nine point nine-nine percent wouldn't. Even as a sentient species that's just the natural circle of life. Trying to prevent the majority or even a significant number of these deaths would drain resources at an incredible rate and ultimately be unsustainable even for the first generation. Thus the law would seem to favor a species-by-species basis but that would introduce a lot of complications and as many loopholes; Lawyers are almost never truly sentient.
Here's the logic train for the general population, and the general rule:
The Republic of Sunset provides universal healthcare. That healthcare includes free family planning. Walk up to a dispenser in the restroom, wave a card (or more likely the chip in your hand), get a condom or any number of medications or implants that prevent pregnancy - or have a contraceptive added to your personal water supply. There are lots of ways to prevent pregnancy and they are cheap, readily available, and have no social stigma attached.
If an individual is too dumb to take a pill, wear a condom, get their tubes tied, keep their pants on, their legs closed, or otherwise prevent unwanted pregnancy it is like not getting vaccinated; they're dumb and should feel dumb. Killing another sentient is murder - even if it is their own child. Republic medical science is extremely advanced and those conducting such an inquiry will know whether it was sentient or not. Generally - and very much depending on the species - if it can live outside the womb, even with machine support (and those machines are very advanced - see the Baby-In-A-Box), it is sentient. It really shouldn't be an issue anyway; A very high standard of education, free family planning, and a lot of advanced medicine means the majority of 'modern era' abortions simply do not happen.
Religions and Charities
The government does not, as a matter of policy, make any statement of preference or rejection of any particular religion. If an individual belongs to a certain religious group and commits a crime based on their membership in that group they are punished according to the law. Their religion affiliation has nothing to do with it, either as a mitigating factor or as a causal matter. Membership in a religious group does not make one immune to any law; As with charities, all religious organizations are still subject to all local regulations.
As with religions, there are no officially recognized charity organizations in Sunset. There are charity organizations, and plenty of them, but there is no special tax status or government office that is dedicated to dealing with them. All charitable organizations have to follow the same regulations and ordinances as all other entities. Usefully, working for one of these organizations does count for work performed under the PEI scheme. In general, the government feels that charities throughout history have been manipulated and abused. Much of what is donated ends up going to administration costs including exorbitant salaries for senior executives and other overhead costs that divert some to a majority of the resources donated from their intended purpose.
Research has indicated that if an individual wishes to make another person's life better, their donation would be better served by just giving a target individual money and allowing them to spend it as they see fit. While the potential for abuse is there, the amount consumed in preventing abuse is typically more than the actual abuse committed by multiple factors. Numerous organizations that are run completely by volunteers exist to connect individuals who need assistance with those willing to give it and those who inquire as to government assistance are directed to these organizations.
The Government and Constitution do not recognize any political parties as being part of the government, integral to its system, or part of the election process. Most people - according to the polls - love this system and don't belong to a political party or similar organization. The general view is that political parties are the enemy of free government and result in tradition and loyalty to the party being more important than innovation and responsibility to the represented.
An individual may belong to a group that calls themselves a 'political party' but as that is personally identifiable information, they cannot list it on their election questionnaire. Most of the so-called 'political parties' in Sunset are typically more along the lines of social clubs where a group of individuals gather to talk about issues that they feel affect them. Often times these groups are at the extreme edges of political thought. As long as they do not do anything illegal the government respects their rights to free speech and leaves them alone.
Citizenship and Immigration
Want to become a citizen? Great! Step foot on Sunset soil and declare your intention; It is that simple. The Sunset government has very few immigration policies in place, and most of these are positive in nature. Immigration from any Triumvirate state is automatic. Immigration from any neutral state is automatic. The only restrictions are nations that Sunset has distinctly unfriendly relationships with. In those cases there is a review as to the status of the individual in question. That's not to say that it is as simple as booking a flight and stepping off the ship. The private companies that run the transportation infrastructure have their own rules and they may not allow individuals with contagious diseases, cannibalistic tendencies, or similar issues to officially disembark. There are also rules in place for those who might be wanted for criminal offenses wherever they originated.
This is one of the more complex areas of Sunset immigration law and can roughly be boiled down to the following; Political or moral 'crimes' cannot be used to bare an individual from entry. Notable examples of this would be political criminals; Individuals who are wanted for speaking out or protesting the political situation, government policies, and other similar non-violent protests in their home nation. More esoteric would be those convicted of prostitution or religious offenses. Both are, generally, not considered crimes in Sunset and no obstacle would be placed to those desiring entry. However, this does not apply to those who have been convicted of felony offenses, even if they are the result of actions which would not be considered a crime in Sunset. A protester who firebombs a political office would be guilty of arson and would be returned to their nation of origin. Those who have served their sentence - even if it does not seem sufficient or is overly harsh by the standards of the Republic - are eligible for normal entry.
For those individuals who might be wanted in another country for a crime but either reside in Sunset or are attempting to return, a trial will be held with both sides presenting their evidence as it stands. For those nations that have access to them these are held in one of the Triumvirate of Yut's Consulates where all sides can easily communicate back and forth without necessitating long-distance travel. Justice in the Republic is swift and those seeking to bring a criminal action against someone who is either in Sunset or about to enter should have all of their facts in order before they attempt to present a case.
But what about...
The Food and Drug Administration? Is the food in Sunset safe to eat? What about building codes? Labor policies?
In theory? All of those things are handled by the market. If a company makes bad food then word gets out very, very quickly on the internet. There are augmented reality applications that specifically check products to see if there are any warning about them floating around. The same with places to live and places to work.
In practice? Mega-Corporations own the places where people live, work, and play. They want people to continue to live, work, and play there. They know they can't stop information on bad products and bad places from getting out. To even try to do so would take more money than it would take to fix them. That's bad for business. So they cheat. The corporations use information provided by agencies such as the Federated Segment's Science Section Consumer Product Safety Service to regulate what is and isn't allowed to come onto their property.
Companies use the standards that these agencies have established to make their products so they can sell them. It also ends up being important because of the regular closeness of the various Triumvirate states and their colonies. Making two different products for two different regions is inefficient, especially if one is advertising the same product across those same regions and selling it to retailers as the same product.
Do problems with products pop up? Sure. But because Sunset law emphasizes personal responsibility for one's actions, there's no hiding behind a corporate facade in order to shield oneself from wrongdoing. If you knowingly made and sold a product that killed someone in the course of normal use, you're at least on the line for around 15 million in liability, possibly more depending on how much the victim was making. No, this doesn't apply to gun manufacturers. Peanut butter with arsenic in it? Yes.