Bill of Attainder Imposes Punishment Without Trial March 12, 2007


A bill of attainder is a law that imposes punishment without trial. This is forbidden by the US Constitution, and the constitutions of most states.

An anti-gang ordinance passed in January by the City of Ontario, Oregon, and adopted by Malheur County, involves the use of a bill of attainder as a counter-gang measure.

Under the measure, police are permitted to identify suspected gang members on the basis of several criteria that do not necessarily involve commission of a crime. People thus designated are informed by mail that they are on a watch list, and subject to arrest should they be seen in the company of others on the list.

Appeals of a gang affiliate designation begin with a law enforcement officer before being handed to the courts. This is another patently unconstitutional facet of the measure.

While police work is difficult, the objective should be to protect the rights of the public, not to serve the convenience of the state. Abolition of due process is never useful nor justifiable.

Let us stand firm in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

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