Without assigning blame, or naming names, and without the advice of an attorney, I’d like to point out the following:

1. Elderly grandmother, aged 81, takes her two great-grandchildren to a local retailer and leaves them in the car during a very hot day. In her defense, her attorney notes, she left the keys in the car with the kids so that they could turn on the air conditioning if they got too hot. Of course, concerned citizens observed the kids, called police, and Nana is put in jail until her family, of limited means, can raise the $50,000 bail. The children were not harmed.

2. Local cycling enthusiast, riding to work on a busy expressway, is hit from behind by a truck in the bike lane and hurled over the railing to the ground, some 40 feet below. The accident is fatal. After an investigation, the driver of the truck is charged with a minor traffic infraction, the maximum fine of which is $113 and 2 points on his driver’s license.

On the one hand, a person placed other people in a position where there was the potential for danger, without actually causing harm. On the other, a person actually harmed another person, without the intention to do so. And yet, society applies wildly unequal punishments.




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