Criminal Laws on the Fringe: An Analysis of Legislated Punishments for Morality Crimes in the 50 States
Each of the 50 states currently attempts to prohibit acts that could be called victimless, public order, or morality-based crimes. The first objective of this research is to identify conceptually similar criminal offenses regulating adult behavior in the United States. The state-level crimes ultimately selected for our analysis of 2006 online criminal code sanctions include: prostitution (separately reviewing “anti-john” statutes), gambling, marijuana possession, obscenity, adultery, and public intoxication. Due to construct validity problems encountered within the literature when we wanted to first select, and then later describe, our collection of seven crimes, we introduce a new term: Fringe Laws. Second, we will use descriptive statistics to analyze the states’ statutes, using their allowable incarceration amounts and maximum fines to examine how each of these crimes are punished across the 50 states, and to determine which states are most and least punitive in terms of average punishment level across the seven Fringe Laws. Finally, using the Excel map tool, we looked for any obvious spatial patterns among the states.
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