When is it morally (and/or legally) justifiable to violate existing laws ?

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,285
"Dura Lex, Sed Lex" would posit that never

However what about situations when breaking exiting laws saves human lives ? What about other situations ?

And in which cases would the legal system side with the "lawbreaker" ? (provide examples if possible)
 
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Apr 2018
43
Canada
Mitigating Circumstances : a criminal act is committed but all facets of the situation are taken into account.

Scenario : Guy goes clubbing with his girlfriend.At some point another guy comes onto his girlfriend.Both men have had a few drinks and maybe popped some pills.A fight ensues and the stranger ups the ante by pulling a knife.Let us suppose the boyfriend gets a cut.His girlfriend seeing this and being of stern stuff picks up a bar stool and brings it down on the strangers head as he is lunging with the knife at her boyfriend's stomach.The stranger goes down and the police and paramedics are called.

Later the stranger dies due to excessive bleeding in his brain exacerbated by the alcohol and drugs in his system.

The boyfriend is treated in hospital and released.

Witnesses give varying accounts of the melee but the girlfriend insists she believed that her boyfriend could have been killed.

Should she nevertheless be charged with a criminal offence? After all even though she did not intend to kill the stranger the fact is he is dead.She cannot claim self defence since she was not the one being attacked.

In modern jurisprudence the law allows for taking into account all the facets of the case as opposed to just the end result.

The girlfriend saw that the stranger was armed and her boyfriend was not.She saw her boyfriend cut and believed his life was in imminent danger.

She reacted by coming to his defence with what was at hand (the barstool) and only wanted the stranger to stop his attack.

Between the booze and drugs she felt that neither of the men were thinking clearly.

Adrenaline in a life and death situation probably added more force to her blow than she intended.

Under Hammurabi's code this was simplified to make the magistrate's rulings easier.

Under his code the girlfriend would be put to death.The stranger is dead and that is murder.What she intended and the circumstances surrounding the altercation are irrelevant.She hit him and he died.

Fortunately our codes of law are more nuanced than Hammurabi.

It is not that the law sides with the girlfriend in the above example but the spirit of the law recognizes that the situation in the club was not cut and dried.

It could be argued that by the strictest interpretation of the sanctity of all life the girlfriend was morally in the wrong.

However it could also be argued that she acted to preserve her boyfriend's life.

It is true that she could not say with absolute certainty that had she not intervened her boyfriend would not have been killed by the stranger.

On the other hand had she opted to take a passive stance instead could inaction in a life threatening situation be equally justified and equally moral?

There is an old saying to the effect that evil flourishes when good men stand aside and do nothing.

In the case of scenario above the stranger was not evil but inaction can be as immoral and unjustified as taking a stand which is what the girlfriend did even though again by a strict and narrow interpretation of laws prohibiting the taking of a life and a strict and narrow interpretation of the sanctity of life she violated both.
 
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specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,604
Australia
from the Rite of Sol ;

ARIES. Brother Leo, I beg that you will close the shrine with me.


LEO. It cannot be.


ARIES. Brother Leo, I know the rule. But evil will assuredly come to us from this.


LEO. Brother Aries, the Law may not be broken.


ARIES. Brother Leo, the Law is made so that the wise may break it at their need.

:)
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,812
Australia
There is an old saying the rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of the wise........However if everyone took this literally there would be anarchy. In every situation there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Baba yaga hut's post is a good example of this.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,285
Mitigating Circumstances : a criminal act is committed but all facets of the situation are taken into account.

Scenario : Guy goes clubbing with his girlfriend.At some point another guy comes onto his girlfriend.Both men have had a few drinks and maybe popped some pills.A fight ensues and the stranger ups the ante by pulling a knife.Let us suppose the boyfriend gets a cut.His girlfriend seeing this and being of stern stuff picks up a bar stool and brings it down on the strangers head as he is lunging with the knife at her boyfriend's stomach.The stranger goes down and the police and paramedics are called.

Later the stranger dies due to excessive bleeding in his brain exacerbated by the alcohol and drugs in his system.

The boyfriend is treated in hospital and released.

Witnesses give varying accounts of the melee but the girlfriend insists she believed that her boyfriend could have been killed.

Should she nevertheless be charged with a criminal offence? After all even though she did not intend to kill the stranger the fact is he is dead.She cannot claim self defence since she was not the one being attacked.

In modern jurisprudence the law allows for taking into account all the facets of the case as opposed to just the end result.

The girlfriend saw that the stranger was armed and her boyfriend was not.She saw her boyfriend cut and believed his life was in imminent danger.

She reacted by coming to his defence with what was at hand (the barstool) and only wanted the stranger to stop his attack.

Between the booze and drugs she felt that neither of the men were thinking clearly.

Adrenaline in a life and death situation probably added more force to her blow than she intended.

Under Hammurabi's code this was simplified to make the magistrate's rulings easier.

Under his code the girlfriend would be put to death.The stranger is dead and that is murder.What she intended and the circumstances surrounding the altercation are irrelevant.She hit him and he died.

Fortunately our codes of law are more nuanced than Hammurabi.

It is not that the law sides with the girlfriend in the above example but the spirit of the law recognizes that the situation in the club was not cut and dried.

It could be argued that by the strictest interpretation of the sanctity of all life the girlfriend was morally in the wrong.

However it could also be argued that she acted to preserve her boyfriend's life.

It is true that she could not say with absolute certainty that had she not intervened her boyfriend would not have been killed by the stranger.

On the other hand had she opted to take a passive stance instead could inaction in a life threatening situation be equally justified and equally moral?

There is an old saying to the effect that evil flourishes when good men stand aside and do nothing.

In the case of scenario above the stranger was not evil but inaction can be as immoral and unjustified as taking a stand which is what the girlfriend did even though again by a strict and narrow interpretation of laws prohibiting the taking of a life and a strict and narrow interpretation of the sanctity of life she violated both.
Presumably there are laws on self defense, so the girl friend can be viewed as acting in accordance with the law, and thus not violating it...

Plus the situation is complicated by the fact that the fighters were already breaking the law (they consumed drugs, they fought, one pulled out a knife, all of that is already lawbreaking)
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,561
SoCal
"Dura Lex, Sed Lex" would posit that never

However what about situations when breaking exiting laws saves human lives ? What about other situations ?

And in which cases would the legal system side with the "lawbreaker" ? (provide examples if possible)
One can argue that it's acceptable to violate laws when laws are perceived as being highly unjust and especially when following the law is going to result in greater harm than in not following the law would. So, for instance, violating international law in order to prevent a genocide would certainly be justified--as would violating a hypothetical Nazi-era law against helping and saving Jews. As for when the legal system sides with lawbreakers, well, it helps determine who exactly is in charge of enforcing this legal system. So, with international law, if powerful countries that are normally in charge of enforcing international law decide to violate it instead, then there might be no one who would actually be willing to enforce international law and to punish the relevant transgressors. Likewise, sometimes the law takes mitigating circumstances into account. So, for instance, if you break the law but do so in the name of a good cause (such as releasing classified information in the name of whistle-blowing), then you could get a more lenient punishment than you would get if you break the law in the name of a bad cause.