A state judge has ruled that North Carolina's 201-year-old law barring unmarried couples from living together is unconstitutional. Hooray! This results in a net increase of freedom because: [you already know]. I found the story on the front page of CNN, so it’s big news and by tomorrow there should be plenty of interesting commentary about it. As for those who talk about how wonderful this is, I completely agree.
But the AP account has this one paragraph I keep stumbling over:
[An ACLU spokeswoman] said that since 1997, the law has spawned about 36 criminal cases in North Carolina. State officials have said the number of people actually convicted under the law -- formally known as the fornication and adultery statute -- is not clear.
If you walk up to a state official and ask him some out-of-the-blue question like “How many drunk-driving convictions have there been in your state since 1997,” I won’t hold it against him if he can’t tell you.
But a controversial law before the state Supreme Court, with big media outlets like CNN coming down to see what happens, and furthermore the law’s only spawned about four criminal cases per year anyway — how the hell do you not know how many convictions there have been?
The law was a class 2 misdemeanor before it was overturned. A conviction could result in a jail sentence, although if you asked state officials how many people did time for breaking this law they’d probably be unclear on that, too.
Actually, I think the state officials know damn well how many convictions this law’s racked up, but in light of its being overturned they’re probably embarrassed. So do you think it's because the conviction rate has been so high, or so low?