An American friend who gives legal advice online was telling me the questions he most frequently receives from punters. One is how should they cope with what is called ‘revenge porn’. Photographs have been taken of a pair in happier days and compromising positions, but now, following the break-up of the relationship, one of them is putting pictures on the web.
Then there is the growing ‘net badger’ game. In a cyber variation of a centuries-old scam, the punter who has exchanged pictures with a boy or girl he believes to be over the age of consent is then contacted by a brother/father/uncle, who tells him the boy or girl was only 15 and wants to know how much he will pay in compensation.
Then there is the Mann Act to worry about. Passed back in 1911 to prevent commercial prostitution, it made it an offence to transport a woman (except one’s wife) across a state line for a sexual purpose. Over the years, however, it has been used to prosecute what criminals would call ‘straight’ people such as the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Charlie Chaplin (pictured). The answer has to be that it is a criminal offence and there is always the possibility of a prosecution. It could also lead to another form of the badger game if the woman retrospectively decides she did not want to be taken to a motel across the state line.
But apparently the question most troubling the punters is, ‘I have a felony conviction. How can I get my gun licence back?’ The answer, of course, varies from state to state, and federal law can override state law anyway.
It was so much simpler in my day. The first question I was asked by a client accused of killing a guard in a bank raid was ‘what are my chances of probation?’ Over the weeks that followed, junior counsel and I led him to the position that if, by chance, he was convicted only of manslaughter, he would be happy with 18 years. When leading counsel swept into the interview room, the client’s first words were ‘what am I going to get? ‘I’d give you 21,’ was not what he wished to hear. ‘You’re —ing fired’, was the immediate reply. And that applied to all of us.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor