When is breaking the law defensible?

Re. this story: Mother sets fire to her daughter’s gloating rapist, when is vigilance or “taking the law into ones one hands” defensible?

In WW-II in Denmark some people would fight against the Nazis. That was vigilance and illegal. But most people today would agree that it was not only defensible, but even virtuous. After the war, people turned upon people whom had worked with the Nazis - even though they had done nothing illegal. More recently Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio has told her constituents to squat in their foreclosed homes, which I guess is advising them to do something illegal – although most people would find it hard to blame them, when the feeling is so widespread that they have been so massively screwed over by the banks.

So when is it ok.

Denmark was an occupied country and therefore any laws enacted by the occupational force, or collaborators, were not valid laws.
The long and short of it is that breaking the law is defensible when the law in question is immoral.

It’s ok when it’s not immoral to do so. I only follow the law as far as it coincides with my morality and when breaking it would inconvenience me more than the benefit I would get from breaking it.

Smoking pot is fine. Driving 5 mph over the speed limit is fine, etc.

Here’s a relevant thread I started a while back. I’m pretty much in agreement with Snarky above.

This, of course, besides totally ignoring the fact that failure to follow a law is itself inherently immoral, unless the law is immoral, leads if taken to its logical conclusion to anarchy. It’s a totally indefensible position to take, and quite sadly consistent with the very selfish, “me first!” society we are evolving. :frowning:

Why is it immoral?

Did you mean unethical? Even then I’d question the ethics of antiweed laws.

5 miles over the speed limit I’m not too sure about. Was it 5 miles over in a school zone or on the freeway? One risks other people, the other one not really.

Well, you’ll have to clearly define your terms. OK in terms of the law, in terms of will you rot in jail for it, in terms of whether you’ll burn in Hell, or just draw down the hate of your neighbors, or none of the above?

I’ll give you a hypothetical. If someone threatened my children, or Og forbid did them actual harm, and if I had a gun, and if I knew how to use it without shooting myself in the foot (which I do not), I would blow the person away without a qualm. I don’t fault the woman who set her daughter’s rapist on fire at all. Her actions are fine with me and I don’t care if what she did was illegal. Her actions are probably not OK in terms of the law, and the courts, and she may well go to jail for it. However, if I were on her jury (which I am sure I won’t be), I’d never vote to acquit if the facts were as presented in the news stories I’ve seen(which also may or may not be the case).

And what if people end up dead because of it?
By purchasing illegal drugs you give money to murderers who regularly kill people who are unable to pay their debts, and subsidise a trade which kills thousands worldwide every year.

(I’m being slightly Toungue-In-Cheek here, but you get my point. Theres a good chance someone died along the chain that got you that pot).

I specifically say that one should not act immorally. How you can get your post out of that, I have no idea.

Yeah, my friend had to murder his roommates when they saw his plant.

I’d wager there were far fewer deaths than those involved in the perfectly legal activity of drinking alcohol, and if alcohol was made illegal next week, there would be a substantial amount of people willing to be criminals.

You know, I seem to recall that happening not too long ago…

When the legal authorities themselves have abandoned justice, or justice is perverted wholly into the service of criminals.

They were not screwed by a bank. They got into a mortgage they couldn’t pay. They may not have had any fault in the matter, but the bank did nothing wrong. If they were counting on their home’s value increasing or thought they somehow had a right to live in what they couldn’t pay for… well, too bad for them.

Let’s face the facts; society is more dependent on crime continuing, than it is committed to eradicating it.

It is unethical if you believe that it is important to live in a society where people have respect for the rule of law. The laws may not be perfect, but I see a lot of potential problems in a society where people feel they can rationalize which laws they will or will not follow.

Are you talking about a real threat of physical violence or just a verbal or implied threat? If there is an actual threat, then it isn’t breaking the law. It’s self defense.

Otherwise the law is there to protect society from people like you who feel that their anger or fear is justification enough to commit acts of violence.

That’s your opinion. And a slightly biased opinion at that – aren’t you a lawyer?

I’d say it goes more like this: Failure to follow a law is not inherently immoral, unless the illegal act committed is immoral.

One can agree with the concept of capital L “Law” without agreeing with the law as it is currently written. I believe laws should exist to maximize personal freedom, by protecting rights, property and to a certain extent, safety. Until such a day as our law books reflect that philosophy, and repeal unnecessary, stupid, harmful laws such as drug and alcohol prohibition, laws prohibiting gay marriage, and blue laws, I will continue to have a very low regard for “the Law”.

Anarchy goes too far the other way by allowing other citizens to harm us, take our property, infringe our rights, and take our freedom. Laws can do the exact same things if we let them. The debate shouldn’t be about grand concepts like Law vs. Anarchy, it should be about good laws versus bad.

In other words, people should act the way their personal morals would have them act. The law’s place is to punish and discourage those whose morals would have them harm others, because often people’s morals are wrong. But just as often, the laws are wrong and personal morals are right, and there should be a public debate over changing those laws. In my mind, the law should always be challenged and continually be in a state of flux, as it catches up to the morality of society. There is nothing sacred or holy about it; it should be pragmatic, it is a tool. In fact, I think every citizen has a duty to question and even disregard laws that conflict with their morals.

I’m talking about a real physical threat or an actual act of violence, not an insult or verbal assault. FWIW, I am a non-violent person in real life, there is just this one exception.

But even in that frame couldn’t you make the argument the law is what’s bringing disrespect to the law? How do you respect a law that says weed is illegal but alcohol is okay?

For example some sites try to disable right click menus. They do this to try to keep people from copying images. If you want to open up tabs on that site, or do some other harmless right click function. You can restore access to your right click menu in Firefox if you go to Tools-> Options-> Content tab->Click the advanced button button for javascript settings. Then uncheck “allow sites to remove or replace context menus”.

Why am I telling you this? Because it makes this post illegal. I just broke the law. I just explained how to circumvent a protective copyright measure. Is this a respectable law? Am I a criminal now? Do I deserve punishment? If so what?

The one situation I can envisage is when there an immediate threat to somebodies life that the most proportionate response is to break the law.

Just because a law may appear silly or is poorly worded does not provide justification for disobeying it.
This should not be taken as an endorsement of blindly following the letter of every law. As I’m sure any lawyer will tell you, there are always nuances and extenuating circumstances and interpretations of the laws.

I am a fan of the law, but it should not be used as a replacement for common sense.