General Question

Paradox25's avatar

Can it ever be justifiable to break the law in your opinion?

Asked by Paradox25 (10203points) March 8th, 2014
49 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

This is a vague question. This could relate to something as simple as a traffic infraction, to the potential unconstitutionality of a law to living in an aristocracy. Is there a fine line in your opinion when it can be justifiable to break the law or not?

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filmfann's avatar

Of course there is.
If you have to jaywalk to save a child from being run over, no law would stop you.
Yes that is an extreme example, but there are many situations where a law must be broken for the common good.
For example, Mahatma Gandhi walked to the ocean to make salt in India, when making salt was strictly prohibited. Yes, he went to jail for it, but this also helped overturn that law.

gailcalled's avatar

Under any of the Hiding-Jews-in-the-Attic scenarios.

dxs's avatar

I was going to say something about jay-walking, too.
For many streets, I feel so much safer crossing at my own convenience when both sides of traffic are free. Crosswalks at intersections are so much more sketchier because you have many more different lines of traffic to worry about. Those right-on-red people are vicious. Sometimes the crosswalk stops all traffic, which is inconvenient. I’m an avid jay-walker.

dxs (15160points)“Great Answer” (4points)
johnpowell's avatar

Stealing a loaf of bread to feed my children. That is justified in my book.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Of course, not least because not all laws are themselves justifiable.

JLeslie's avatar

Of course. There are tons of examples when it is justifiable. Too many to list.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, multiple possibilities.
Stealing food if you’re starving, not obeying traffic signals in a serious emergency like rushing to the hospital, walking on the grass when someone keels over on said grass that does not allow walking on. On & on.
I ran 2 red lights, ( cautiously) some years ago rushing my dog to the emergency vet after he was shot by a hillbilly neighbor for chasing the guys cows back through the hole in his fence after they escaped onto my acreage.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s valid in the USA, as it is the basis of the country. It depends on the law that you’re planning to break and the manner in which you break it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m sure here in the states we break multiple laws everyday without even realizing it.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Of course. ML King said something about it is the duty of citizens to break unjust laws. He mentioned the exclusionary laws under Hitler, which had the effect Gail describes above, in his speech supporting breaking unjust laws. But he was talking about breaking the racial and religious discrimination laws, the Jim Crow Laws, of the era.

Not to compare myself in any way to people who stood up to the Nazis or the institutions of the 1950s and 60s, but I’ve had a bone to pick with my state for quite some time: I believe everyone should be allowed beach access and there are laws on the books in the State of Florida—unjust laws in my opinion—that restrict beach access based on private ownership. One of Florida’s finest surfing sites, River Road, is no longer open to surfers. Correction, the finest surfing site, hands down, in the State of Florida has been closed to surfers for a whole generation now due to private ownership of the access. Pain in the ass. I’ve been arrested for tresspassing River Road.

The beaches are a natural resource to be enjoyed by all and not a wealthy few and I just can’t understand why those wealthy few con’t see it this way. So, I refuse to respect those laws that support that specific injustice.

bolwerk's avatar

Sure. Actually, there better be a damn good justification for expecting others to follow the pig state’s laws.

zander101's avatar

I feel it depends based on the continent one resides in. In North America, it can be justifiable based on what the perception of our respective government/judicial system allows or disallows, other continents I feel that it’s permitted based on the social ranking of the individual.

flutherother's avatar

I believe quite strongly in the rule of law where the laws are carefully thought out and based on a sense of morality. I never forget what Nixon said: ‘Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal’ Wow! Where would that take us?

LostInParadise's avatar

There is the whole idea of civil disobedience, where breaking an unjust law becomes a political strategy, as suggested by Thoreau and used by Gandhi and MLK. If you organize a large sit-in or some other illegal activity, you can cause a disruption which becomes a means for forcing the removal of the law.

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting where a lot of jellies took this discussion. I was thinking more in terms of tresspassing if you see someone in distress. Hell, I think President Bush should have broken the law and gone in and helped right away after Katrina instead of waiting for the stupid governor of Louisana to ask for help. Even he says that now.

Traffic laws are definitely there for a reason, imagine the chaos if we didn’t have them? But, traffic laws are constantly broken, especially speed limits. On some roads it isn’t a big deal and others it is a huge risk. Is it justifiable to break the speed limit? I guess sometimes it really is in some emergency situations. Sometimes the speed limit laws are not justified. Like a road near me went from being 50 to 40. 50 was plenty safe, but one day a man (I happen to work with his wife) was driving 80 on that road ran a red and hit a car in the intersection killing 6 people (3 couples). The speed limit had nothing to do with how fast he was driving and driving 40 there can make you sick to your stomach it is so unreasonable slow for that road.

@flutherother That was/is scary. I’m a big rule follower too. Then I think of my example of Hurricane Katrina. I guess if someone feels they are breaking the law for good they justify the breaking.

Blackberry's avatar

Edit: I’m repeating everyone else lol.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Of course. Self defense, defense of others, necessity, duress, etc.

cheebdragon's avatar

It’s only illegal if you get caught. Yesterday I was caught going 83mph in a 55mph zone.

Coloma's avatar

@cheebdragon Oh man…super busted, I bet your fine will be really steep, bummer.

Jaxk's avatar

Some people consider civil disobedience, not just a right but a duty. Our leadership tends to set the stage for our actions. If they don’t follow the laws or rules, why would the rest of us. ‘That’s The Good Thing As A President, I Can Do Whatever I Want’ (Barrack Obama)

Paradox25's avatar

I was most concerned with the unconstitutionality of some laws in America, and laws under the authoritarian regimes of other countries. I don’t believe many reforms would had taken place without large amounts of people violating certain laws.

Cannabis law reform is one issue that comes to mind for me, but not the only one by far. If everybody blindly followed those laws the reforms likely would had never taken place to begin with. Reforming the drug laws is also a way to combat the unconstitionality of many civil and criminal asset forfeiture laws too, and law enforcement officials have repeatedly spit in the face of the U.S Constitution and everything it stands for.

Coloma's avatar

I fully support breaking the suicide laws and taking ones right to die into their own hands.
Can’t put a corpse in jail or fine a dead man/woman. haha

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Jaxk He was very obviously joking. One would have to clinically paranoid or politically craven to treat that statement as if it were uttered seriously.

bolwerk's avatar

@SavoirFaire: He pretty much does do whatever he wants, as long as he can get away with it. Surely if we Google back before 2009, we’ll find @Jaxk complaining how his predecessor beat that path.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@bolwerk I don’t disagree. I just find that video to be poor evidence for the claim. When real evidence exists, there is no good reason to rely on something so easily dismissed.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jaxk , An argument can be made that civil disobedience is not really breaking the law. What after all is a law? It is a choice that you have to either engage in some type of behavior or else be arrested. Saying that one is right and the other is wrong is just words. You are given a choice. If you openly choose the behavior that results in being arrested and you offer no resistance and admit to what you did then you are merely exercising an option specified under the law.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I love when people take short little snippets outside of any context and act like it means something. One would have to be ether painfully obtuse or intellectually dishonest to do that.

LostInParadise's avatar

Let me give you context. Consider the law that blacks had to sit in the back of the bus. If enough decided to follow the lead of Rosa Parks and sit in the front and be arrested then the jails are filled beyond capacity. The law is shown to be unworkable and in need of being changed. There is no need for moral judgment on either side.

Jaxk's avatar

@SavoirFaire – It could be taken as a joke if there were not so many obvious examples that reinforce that mindset.

“This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility”
” I have got a pen and I have got a phone”

His willingness to rewrite Healthcare law and immigration law. His selective enforcement of existing law. He has shown that he can in fact do whatever he wants and what you want to call a joke is merely a ‘Freudian Slip’.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Jaxk Freudian slips are, by definition, accidental. He very clearly meant to make the joke. It’s even delivered as a joke. Focus on the good examples. Using this one makes you lose credibility.

KNOWITALL's avatar

As long as their are child molesters/ predators, there will always be a justification for criminal activity imo.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Jaxk “His willingness to rewrite Healthcare law and immigration law.”

Except the President does not, and cannot, write or rewrite law. The Congress writes the law. You can’t really be this ignorant can you?

Jaxk's avatar


We’re not talking about how it is supposed to work but rather what is actually happening. You may believe Obama is doing a great job or a poor job but it is hard to argue that he isn’t changing the laws without congress. The executive branch is the enforcement arm of federal law. The President is sworn to uphold the law. He doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws or which sections of laws, he will enforce. With immigration he passed his own version of the Dream Act. Remember that, congress had no say. The ACA has been twisted to the point it’s hard to remember what was originally passed. Obama has given exemptions to his supporters, delayed what he thinks will give him political problems, rewritten enforcement deadlines, and what is really funny, he’s threatened to veto any changes made by congress.

I would say that if you don’t know all this, it is you that is ignorant.

Darth_Algar's avatar


No, it isn’t hard to argue because he isn’t doing that. And yes, the executive branch actually does have a fair amount of leeway in determining what laws they wish to pursue more and which they wish to pursue less.

NanoNano's avatar

Of course, it is justified to break the law in certain circumstances.

Breaking a minor law to save a life can be justified in many instances.

Laws are created by human beings to reflect the real world, but the real world is much more complex and unpredictable than any human system can fully prepare for.

Where would we be today if those Bostonians never threw all that British tea into the harbor?

SSS911's avatar

I read fairly often where law enforcement break the law almost daily and nothing is done about it. So if you would like to use them as an example, your welcome to.

bolwerk's avatar

Can we first establish the times when it’s not justifiable to break the law?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@bolwerk “Can we first establish the times when it’s not justifiable to break the law?”

Jaywalking. Jaywalking is never justifiable.

bolwerk's avatar

I live in New York. It’s always justifiable, and so is the bootmark I leave on the cars of people who think otherwise.

Kropotkin's avatar

@bolwerk “Can we first establish the times when it’s not justifiable to break the law?”

Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. from Monday to Friday, between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays.

dxs's avatar

@Darth_Algar I disagree with that statement.

dxs (15160points)“Great Answer” (0points)
gailcalled's avatar

@bolwerk: How do you bookmark a car (and why)?

bolwerk's avatar

@gailcalled: I kick them when they nearly run me over.

Kropotkin's avatar

@gailcalled He presses Ctrl+D

bolwerk's avatar

This calls for Ctrl+W.

dxs's avatar

And if you’re gullible enough to do that, finish off by Ctrl+Shift+T

dxs (15160points)“Great Answer” (0points)
Darth_Algar's avatar

Did someone actually take that seriously?

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Yes, sometimes it is justifiable. That doesn’t remove the potential for facing consequences, but it may occasionally be worth the penalties.

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