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The Miami Republican Fresen committed a knowledge offense, a sort of crime. (Mazzei& Weaver, 2017). When it comes to financial crimes, the adage "ignorance is no defense" doesn't seem to apply. The Federal jurisdictional area permits a taxpayer to act recklessly, even to the point of failing to pay taxes, without being prosecuted. Fresen subjectively thinks that he is not guilty of a crime despite intentionally breaking the law by failing to file tax returns. (Mazzei& Weaver, 2017). The effects of Fresen and the decision made by the federal prosecutors to put the Florida House Representative under one-year probation prove that ignorance is bliss, mainly for tax offenders. However, the Miami Republican can still be convicted of knowledge offenses – knowingly breaking the tax law (Mazzei& Weaver, 2017). The specific charges to be applied on the House representative include: (1) failing to keep the required legal books and document (2) failing to provide information tax information such as returns and forms as demanded by the law and (3) not being able to account for a single tax deduction.
Several reasons can be pursued in understanding why the famous politician decided to act ignorant of the tax law. However, the most fundamental explanation revolves around a micro-theory that explains an individual’s behavior. The argument according to behavioral theory or behaviorism is that repeated actions can become a habit or character. How people interact with the environment and how they respond to external conditions such a rules and regulations shape their actions. Disobedience to a State or Federal law has nothing to do with the internal mental state of the individual. From the analysis of the case, it is evident that Fresen, despite his long years of service as house representative, chose to remain ignorant of the tax law. According to the IRS data, there has been a subsequent failure on the side of Fresen to file any tax returns due from 2007 to 2016. It is also clear from the records that the house representative had tax issues with IRS before he began his political career. Fresen is yet to pay at least 100,000 dollars in back taxes and other additional fines and penalties. There is no doubt, therefore, that this is a deliberate decision and behavior that has grown for several years.
It is true that Fresen’s actions neither fall into the category of tax evasion nor tax avoidance. Tax evasion, tax avoidance, and tax fraud are more serious felony convictions, and convicting a person for such offenses would require solid pieces of evidence (Welsh & Farrington, 2012). The case, however, can be argued from different perspectives to elicit fair hearing from the Federal court. There are two contentious issues to consider before deciding the extent of criminality of Fresen. First is the question of why the member of the Republican Party deliberately chose not to file his tax return. Second is the question of ability and willingness, whether Fresen is able and willing to pay his tax dues and future tax obligations.
The primary objective of prosecution, in this case, is to help the government recover all the tax returns that have not been paid. Therefore, convicting Fresen for a severe tax offense would not assist in achieving this goal. Similarly, the victim could have argued that he "forgot" to pay his taxes (Welsh & Farrington, 2012). This kind of argument is a valid defense to a more serious felony conviction such as tax evasion and tax fraud. A misdemeanor act such as knowledge offense cannot be given the same judgment as grave crimes. In other words, the one-year probation is meant to monitor the victim’s subsequent behavior, his willingness and ability to comply with the tax laws.
In every judgment, it is always important to determine some of the reasons that make people commit crimes. There are ongoing debates on why theories should be used to explain why people commit different crimes and how such offenses can be handles or prevented. The primary goal of most criminologists is to provide the best solutions that will ultimately reduce the types and levels of aggression. The most relevant theories that can be used as explanations for the tax crime include rational choice theory and labeling theory.
According to the first theory, individuals usually act in their self-interests and often make criminal decisions despite having potential knowledge about the risks and benefits (Welsh & Farrington, 2012). As a top official in government, one would expect Fresen to be the first law-abiding citizen. However, this expectation does not seem to materialize because the Republican House Representative is acting in ways that satisfy his self-interest. The second principle, which is labeling theory states that those in power can subvert the law to determine what can be classified as a crime. However, the same rules can be used to determine the criminal acts of people in power.
It is the responsibility of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to assess criminal penalties on individuals who willfully refuse to pay income taxes. In "Cheek v. the United States," the Supreme Court considered the term "willfully" as a taxpayer's outrageous decision to remain ignorant of the law. From a more subjective point of view, it can be argued that failing to file tax returns is a "willful" violation of tax laws; hence there should be no reasonable relief on the side of the offender when it comes to judgment. There are several statutory amendments, regulations, and theories that have been used to demonstrate the income tax collection is a valid process in the U.S, and that every taxpayer must file his or her tax returns every year.
Although there has been arguments as to whether the Sixteenth Amendment was effectively ratified, Judges have, in most cases, used the law to make decisions regarding income tax payment. The Sixteenth Amendment, "26 U.S.C. & 1, 26 U.S.C & 63, and 26 U.S.C. & 61," directs that all incomes must be taxed. Individuals receiving income from whatever source must file yearly tax returns. Following the amendment and several cases of tax boycotts, the Supreme Court judges should show little tolerance for the taxpayers, especially those who "willingly" decide not to pay taxes despite having sufficient knowledge about the law.
There seems to be a clear distinction between punishments and penalties based on the frameworks within which the two terms are applied (Spjut, 1985). Even though the punishment and penalties cannot be viewed sharply from the perspective of legal thinking, the ideas are separable with regards to the application of law as a corrective measure. Crime is a transgression of natural law while punishments or penalties are reparations of criminal acts. The implicit association between law, crime, and punishment revolve around the view that laws are made to correct those who commit crimes (Spjut, 1985). Using the law to punish a person for his wrongdoings does not subjugate essential human values in a judge. Furthermore, it is essential to understand that one key attribute of punishment is "for an offense" in a proceeding case (Spjut, 1985). However, the judge must first give and equate interpretation of the law and use its elements to make a judgment.
In criminal law, it is the responsibility of the court to impose punishment as a means of regulating certain behaviors (Welsh & Farrington, 2012). Criminal punishment entails using the law to inflict unpleasant penalties with the intentions of correcting a behavior. Apart from correction, prevention is the second and most significant reason why judges punish offenders (Welsh & Farrington, 2012). Judges punish offenders in order to prevent future occurrences of such crimes.
Criminological theories provide a foundation for the establishment and implementation of public policies. Lawmakers use public policies constituting elements of criminology theories in designing the most accurate measures that can be used to correct and prevent criminal activities (Williams & McShane, 2016). The various theory groups including "choice theory," "trait theory," "social structure theory," "social process theory," and "developmental theory" provide a basis for the formation of public policies, particularly principles focusing on crime prevention (Williams & McShane, 2016). Among these four theories, trait theory is preferred for its primary and secondary prevention programs. The key assumption under trait theory is that crime people can commit crime because of mental or physical challenges.
By applying the psychological trait theory, it can be assumed that Fresen's criminal behavior is attributed to mental issues, hence the need for the one-year probation. The public policies emerging from psychological theory such as primary prevention programs (PPP) aim at providing conditions to all the criminals recover from personal issues before they engage in criminal activities (Williams & McShane, 2016). On the contrary, secondary prevention programs is a psychological therapy that focuses on preventing people from committing offenses. The final stage of psychological policies includes putting criminals under tertiary programs as a way of reintroducing them to the society and ensuring that they can operate within the normal structures, social rules, and national conventions.
Overall, it is clear that the Miami Republican committed knowledge offense by willingly refusing to file his income tax returns. However, the judgment made by the Supreme Court as to whether this was a "willful" crime against tax laws will depend on specific prevailing conditions such as the mental state and physical health of the offender (Williams & McShane, 2016). Therefore, it was right for the prosecutors to put Fresen under one-year probation before the August 8 hearing and final judgment. While making the judgment, it is important to consider some of the criminological theories and public policies that can be used to improve the behavior of the convict.
Mazzei, P., & Weaver, J. (2017). Former Miami lawmaker didn’t file tax returns during eight years in office. miamiherald. Retrieved 4 November 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article146849129.html#storylink=cpy
Spjut, R. J. (1985). Criminal law, punishment, and penalties. Oxford J. Legal Stud., 5, 33.
Welsh, B. C., & Farrington, D. P. (2012). Crime prevention and public policy. The Oxford handbook of crime prevention, 3-19.
Williams, F. P., & McShane, M. D. (2016). Criminology theory: Selected classic readings. Routledge.
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