“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” is a fairly well known saying that dates back some years now. The meaning of the idiom is simple enough – be prepared for the consequences of your actions.
That sounds straightforward on the surface, but sometimes the consequences are curiously off balanced compared to the actions and people don’t always know that ahead of time. For that reason, if you plan on doing any crime, familiarize yourself with the punishments beforehand so you don’t run into any situations like these.
10. Owning a Bald Eagle Feather Can Get You Sent to Prison and Fined
Bald eagles have been a symbol of America since 1782. In 1978 the birds were listed as endangered. In 2007 they actually got off the endangered list thanks to huge efforts to save the species, and now it’s not even threatened any longer. But the road to that success was paved with harsh rules for anyone who dared cross paths with the majestic bird.
Hunting and killing bald eagles is very much illegal, and that makes plenty of sense. What makes a little less sense is that possessing anything to do with a bald eagle is also illegal. That means if you have bald eagle feathers you’re committing a crime, even if you just found them on the ground.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 makes it illegal for anyone to take one of these birds or anything to do with them including nests, eggs and feathers. The language of the act makes it clear it’s preventing people from hunting and poaching the birds focusing specifically on trafficking and selling but “possess” is specifically mentioned as well.
The punishment, for a first offense, can include a $100,000 fine and a year in prison or both. Legally, only members of recognized Native American tribes may possess the feathers which can be used for certain ceremonial purposes.
Keep in mind that these are maximum penalties and you probably won’t be fined and imprisoned if you find a single feather. That said, you could definitely be forced to return it and, if you refuse, legal action may then be taken.
9. Thai Cops Are Punished With Hello Kitty Armbands
There’s a certain train of thought that says humiliation is a suitable form of punishment. Think of The Scarlet Letter and the idea that an adulterer be branded so all can see and mock their discretion. Psychologists don’t necessarily agree that humiliation is ideal, especially for kids, but it still happens.
In Thailand, if members of the police department are found to have broken some sort of rules, their punishment can be meted out with a noticeable and humiliating brand. In this case, it’s a pink Hello Kitty armband.
Police are supposed to be role models for following the rules so if a cop is caught littering or parking illegally, they get put on desk duty with the armband for their coworkers to see. They’re spared the shame of having to work out in public wearing it, so the shame of being among fellow officers is supposed to be enough.
8. Touching a Member of the Thai Royal Family Was a Capital Offense
Speaking of Thailand, the country’s rules proved to be so daunting that, in one extreme example, they backfired horribly. It was in 1880 when Queen Sunandha Kumariratana was vacationing with her family and crossing a river by boat with her daughter. The current was strong, and the boat capsized.
There were many guards and servants about and you’d think someone would have rushed in to save the Queen’s life, but you’d be wrong. One law of the land at the time stated no one was allowed to touch a member of the Royal family for any reason under pain of death. Any touch could be considered a capital crime. As such, the Queen and her daughter both drowned.
The King is said to have imprisoned everyone who could have saved them despite their adherence to the law, and then abolished the law altogether so it could never happen again.
7. Attempted Suicide Has Been Criminalized In Many Countries
Most people generally recognize a suicide attempt as a symptom of a mental illness of some kind, and likely linked to depression. Those who attempt suicide can be arrested or detained in hospitals but the hope is that the person will be able to see a doctor and get help to get to the root cause of why they tried to take their own life. That’s the ideal outcome, anyway.
In many places, especially in the past, a suicide attempt was simply vilified. Up to the 1950s, Britain criminalized suicide attempts and a small portion of offenders were sentenced to jail time. Back in the 13th century if someone did commit suicide, their surviving family was punished and all their possessions were taken by the government.
Though England eventually decriminalized attempts, not everyone did. In many countries it’s still a crime. The Bahamas has the stiffest laws on the books for offenders and if someone survives, they can be sentenced to life in prison for it.
6. DreamWorks Animators Were Punished by Having to Work on Shrek
Most jobs have a process for dealing with employees who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. In extreme cases if you commit a crime beyond the confines of work they’ll call the police. But within the realm of poor performance you may get fired at worst, or written up for a small-scale offense.
Some businesses have a three strikes rule before a firing, or maybe you’ll have to take some training again to prove you can do the job expected of you.
DreamWorks Animation opted for a more unusual approach to punishment after the studio was first formed. The studio’s first movie, The Prince of Egypt, was done with traditional animation. Remember, this was the mid 1990s and computer animation was not really a thing yet. Pixar had only just released Toy Story in 1995.
When an animator was found to have messed up in some way on the production of Prince of Egypt they were sent to work on Shrek as punishment. Shrek started production around 1995, but it wasn’t released until 2001. The movie had gone through numerous changes including character designs and voice actors. It was treated like the “ugly stepchild” of the studio that no one believed would ever get made let alone succeed.
Animators called the punishment being “Shreked.” Why was it so maligned? Because, when it was first pitched, the story was terrible, the budget was miniscule, and the studio had hired a bunch of recent grads with no experience. Work was done in an ugly warehouse and the team kept changing as people walked out or were fired. And, because it lasted years, to many it must have seemed endless.
5. Etiquette Breaches at Oxford Were Punishable by Drinking Beer
One thing people tend to find very disagreeable is when an organization polices itself and metes out punishments that are, by most measures, ineffective. Police officers getting suspended for egregious crimes is an extreme example of things, but schools are known to behave similarly.
At Oxford, that prestigious old British university, those who breach etiquette in some way suffer a punishment called sconcing. These breaches could include poorly speaking Latin or talking about women. This dates back to the 1600s and has evolved somewhat since then to its current form, which exists in numerous schools.
A person found to have violated some ethical rule is forced to sconce, which involves drinking a pint of beer. In some cases everyone gets to drink at the same time. In others it’s something of an elaborate drinking game that can get everyone drunk if done right. In other versions, a person has to propose a sconce by accusing the others of some act. Anyone guilty of that act must drink. You may recognize this as basically “never have I ever.”
4. A Teen Was Tried as an Adult for Sending Selfies of a Minor (Himself)
One of the most infamous crimes of the age of computers has been the proliferation of videos and images of child pornography. Whole task forces have been set up to stop this and there are cybercrimes units across the globe that deal with these issues. And while that is absolutely something that needs to be dealt with, it’s not always dealt with in the right way.
In North Carolina, a 17-year-old boy was tried as an adult for possessing nude photos of an underage person. That person was himself. The pictures were selfies he’d taken when he was 16. The boy ended up taking a plea deal just to keep himself off of a sex offender list and avoid jail time.
His charges included four counts of making and possessing images of himself and one count of having a photo of his girlfriend, who was the same age. The girl was also charged and took a similar plea deal. In both cases they were the adult perpetrator and minor victim of the same crime.
3. George R R Martin’s Punishment for Avoiding Vietnam Was Being Called a Coward
Numerous people came out against the Vietnam war draft back in the 1960s, and Game of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin was among them. He applied for conscientious objector status which would exclude him from going to war and, according to Martin, he was granted it very quickly. But it did come with a price.
Martin said the draft board decided that Martin would be punished by being branded a “coward for life” as a result of his actions, and that would be a suitable burden to bear. Seems like he’s handled it pretty well.
2. More Than One School Has Taken Canes Away From Blind Students
Education is considered a vital part of any child’s life but, if the news has taught us anything as adults, it’s that schools are constantly fumbling the ball in new and creatively horrible ways. For instance, when it comes to the punishment of blind kids.
Sure, a blind child could have a discipline issue that needs to be addressed, but you’d think anyone with common sense might think twice before taking away the child’s cane, which is necessary for getting around as a person with limited or no vision. Nonetheless, it’s happened a few times.
In Kansas City, an 8-year-old had their cane taken and replaced with a pool noodle after he was accused of hitting someone on the bus with it. The child, who was born without eyes, is known to fidget and sometimes raises their cane just to move it around. The bus driver reported this as the child being violent.
In the UK, a student was banned from using her cane because the school felt it was a risk to others who might trip over it.
1. Until 2009 There Was No Punishment For Selling Children in Mississippi
For many of these entries we’ve seen a punishment that seemed too extreme for the crime. In a few, the punishment was more of a joke that didn’t match the crime for the opposite reasons. And finally, we’re one where the crime seems unbelievably egregious and the only thing more unbelievable is that there was no punishment at all.
Until the year 2009 there was no punishment in the state of Mississippi for selling a child. As in, a human child. It wasn’t technically a crime. This only came to light because, in 2008, a woman tried to sell her granddaughter for $2,000 and a car. The woman was only charged with a probation violation unrelated to the incident because they couldn’t find a valid crime on the books to charge her with as it relates to, and this can’t be stressed enough, selling an entire human being.
When the case came to light, a new law was proposed and passed, letting Mississippi leap into the 19th century, just a couple hundred years late. Of interest, however, is that there is still no federal law prohibiting the sale of children. A law was passed to protect them from sex trafficking but the language omitted the sale of children for black market adoptions or just for good, old-fashioned profit.