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Amber E.
Amber E., Attorney
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What is victim precipitation Should victim precipitation be

Customer Question

What is victim precipitation? Should victim precipitation be considered in appropriate circumstances (Miller’s Casual Harm) or always excluded? (Ethics of Care; Absolutism) What are the principles underlying civil disobedience? Is civil disobedience ethical?

Please be candid and give an example in your definition also, be clear about what you believe is
"appropriate circumstance" in your example.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Amber E. replied 6 years ago.
1. Victim precipitation is generally defined as one or more acts on the part of the victim that provoke the subsequent acts of the defendant. It may also be defined as a range of conduct and motives on the part of both parties that result in the victimization.

Larry J. Siegel in his work Criminology (2008) describes two kinds of victim precipitation, one being "active" and the other "passive": Active precipitation occurs when victims act provocatively," such as by using threats or fighting words, or even attacking first. Passive precipitation occurs "when the victim belongs to a group whose mere presence threatens the attacker's reputation, status, or economic well being." This might include hate crime attacks against immigrants, ethnic or religious minorities. (p. 73) While the theory of victim precipitation is always used in the case of violent crime, it has been most contentious when used in the context of rape. As an example, a female victim may be said to have "precipitated" or in some way contributed to an attack against her by dressing a certain way or by pursuing a relationship with her attacker.

Victim precipitation has a long history in criminal justice, being used as a basis to exonerate defendants and/or mitigate sentences. It should be considered in appropriate circumstances, because it helps the fact finder to determine a key factor in any crime - the "mens rea" or guilty mind.

Civil disobedience can be ethical, such as when the motivation is to disobey an injustice, to criticize and call attention to a legal wrong. Probably the most well known example of civil disobedience was the refusal of American Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a public bus during a period of segregation. Because the laws were immoral and discriminatory, her refusal to comply was an appropriate circumstance and justified response.

2. After 9-11, changes were made to the law that allowed the federal government to, among other things, detain even American citizens without probable cause, even within the boundaries of the United states.

The Patriot Act, for example, expanded the United States federal government power to carry out domestic surveillance against both citizens, lawful residents, tourists, and immigrants (legal or illegal). It expanded the federal government authority to intercept electronic communications between people without their knowing it. Under Section 214 of that Act, the FISA rule of relevance was broadened such that it would begin to apply to both criminal and intelligence investigations. The Act was further expanded to authorize the federal government to execute nation-wide search warrants. These warrants could then be used by law enforcement in cooperation with the federal government for the purpose of seizing any and all electronically obtainable evidence wherever it could be found. The effect of this change meant that the federal government could now obtain personal information on demand from private companies such as telephone companies or corporate servers, or public entities such as the schools and local libraries.

Particularly controversial changes in the law under the Patriot Act were those that allowed warrants to be obtained to seize and/or examine suspects' personal property wherever it could be found without the government having to show probable cause or even that any illegal activity ever occurred.

These actions were justified as necessary evils designed to root out terrorism and avoid another attack. We saw something similar during the Civil War, when President Lincoln suspend Habeas Corpus. Arguably, such actions are justified, if only temporarily, to save and protect the lives of potentially thousands of people. Sometimes drastic action must be taken, even if it must be done at the expenses of some personal freedoms.