The Clash of Principles
by Jawahir Aden
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Legal knowledge is not an immigrants’ best suit, so much so that it is not something they can relate to whatsoever; but does the legal maxim that states “ignorance of the law excuses no man…” sits well with them? Everyone in a cultured society knows that ignorance of the law has no place in the society— that the law is something that is part of our liability. But what happens in reality when you are found on the wrong side of the law? Unlike the law enforcement officials, we do not enjoy the gift of the absolute immunity. As citizens, our right that protects us is to read the law and understand the state and local statutes along with the applicable court opinions. There is always a thin layer between asking and not asking what’s right. Overlooking the fact has haunted many immigrant communities…
Inspired by a true story, this critique centers around a Somali family in the state of Missouri.
At the dawn hours of one Monday morning, police responded to a neighborhood dispute only to find the family of Mr. Nur in a total mix-up. Around noon the same day, officers arrested Mr. Nur, 39, at his residence in connection with assaults against his wife and children. Neighbors were thoughtful enough and told the officers that the incident at Nur’s household was not merely an isolated one, and that it was part of selfish behavior that has been going on for years.
According to Nur, “[h]e was there to visit his children…” and that he was no longer married to the mother of his children. The divorce took place just few months prior. It wasn’t legally officiated unfortunately, but it was a traditional one. It is a truth universally acknowledged by most of the Somali community that the law here in America does not apply to them especially, the family laws. This reality is so well fixed in the minds of more families to date.
Initially, Nur was under the impression that he was a single man who often visited his children and confronted with the mother of his children when “[h]e feels that his children were neglected.” Per Nur’s defense, he had no idea if he was legally required to divorce his wife. His arguments: “…divorced my wife according to my traditions.”
Nur was charged with neglect, assault, false plea, aggravated assault and related offenses. To which, he pleaded guilty on all counts. Nur’s defense is that he had no idea such laws existed; and that he trusted his friends for legal assistance. According to court records, Nur will face all the charges and may potentially earn him 15-20 years of imprisonment.
In this particular jurisdiction where Nur is indicted, the malum in se offenses, scienter requirements are limited and no protection against conviction in the absence of responsibility. Courts usually now conclude that one can be convicted for knowingly committing the offense itself.
While the whole corpus of the state and federal laws is tough and impossible to be acquainted with, there is no excuse always; punishment of being ignorant of the law will equally remain just. Teens in our lives are equally engaging in delinquent behaviors because of our society’s legal ignorance. Teens and kids are in a learning process growing up. The more they get exposed to anything, the more they think it is socially acceptable.
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