Leap Baby Crime Loophole
September 15, 2018 3:55 PM   Subscribe

If a Leap Baby born in 2000 commits a crime on February 28, 2018, should they be tried as a minor or an adult? One girl challenged the Australian courts with just this conundrum when she chose February 28, 2018 for her crime, resulting in incredibly complicated discussions of what exactly a "month" is and an initial ruling overturned on appeal.

More on Leap Day Birthdays at the Atlantic, Wikipedia, and Vox.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (46 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
"This is a stock image of a woman looking confused, not the teenager from the court judgement."

"This is another stock image of the same woman, who is not the teenager from the court judgement, looking confused."

BuzzFeed: thank you.
posted by zachlipton at 4:01 PM on September 15, 2018 [26 favorites]


I propose a compromise. We can go by strict birthdays, like in Pirates of Penzance. So she's off the hook for the crime, but she can't drink until 2072.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 4:09 PM on September 15, 2018 [35 favorites]


Clearly this means that for those specific babies, they have one day in their life when they don't exist legally, and as such are immune to all prosecution for crimes committed on that day.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:15 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


"This is a stock image of a woman looking confused, not the teenager from the court judgement."

She is, however, the woman from the distracted boyfriend meme, which is from the same stock photographer.
posted by automatronic at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2018 [20 favorites]


Her lawyers said that as a matter of logic a person born on February 29, 2000 would not be 18 years old on February 28, 2018, in much the same way as a person born on February 2, 2000 would not be 18 on February 1, 2018

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by thelonius at 4:22 PM on September 15, 2018


I guess you're not technically 18 until you've passed the 18th anniversary of your birthday. If you were born on 29 February, this doesn't occur until 29 February or 1 March (depending on the year). On 28 February in your 18th birthday year, you're still technically 17. Right?

I've always thought this kind of mathematics absurd in situations where someone dies shortly before their birthday, and are said to have died at the age of whatever the previous year's birthday was. If you die five days before, say, your 26th birthday, you're basically 26, not 25 - that is, you've pretty much lived 26 years, even if you haven't passed your 26th birthday.

That said, I guess the courts have to draw a line somewhere.

Me, I think we should round to the nearest year. Then again, I am not a law-talking-guy.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:26 PM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't think she was 18. I'm curious though, wouldn't there already be an established practice for this? If she'd showed up to a bar after the crime, would she have been served?

Also, just a little gripe, the ABC app gave me a news alert when this story broke. It's always doing that for interesting but ultimately unimportant news like this.

Hell, the news alert I got half an hour ago that two people have died At Defqon, while sad, also does not necessitate a news alert as far as I'm concerned.

Literally while typing that I got a news alert about a Royal Commission into aged care. There's too many already, they didn't need to send me one about a leap year human interest story.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Clearly this means that for those specific babies, they have one day in their life when they don't exist legally, and as such are immune to all prosecution for crimes committed on that day.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:15 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


DO YOU WANT THE PURGE BECAUSE THIS IS HOW YOU GET THE PURGE!

(Seriously though, it's obvious that in her case, it would be the 1st where she's OVER the date of her last day). I don't understand why they're making it so hard.
posted by symbioid at 4:42 PM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I propose a compromise. We can go by strict birthdays, like in Pirates of Penzance. So she's off the hook for the crime, but she can't drink until 2072.

I love you forever for looking up Australia's drinking age :)
posted by daybeforetheday at 4:45 PM on September 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


"Leap Baby Crime Loophole" is by far my favorite Bauhaus song. Therefore, Peter Murphy should decide the case. It's just maths!
posted by phooky at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2018 [12 favorites]


Full text decision and quick round up of legislation in Aus that considers this situation (twitter link)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:07 PM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't really get why this is a hard problem, as such, because every year still has a clear "day that is not yet February 29th" and "day that is clearly after February 29th" that occur one right after the other. The part I really don't understand is why they felt the need to make the black-letter rule that you are 18 the day before your 18th birthday, except as a gotcha to teenagers who think they're being clever and don't know about that rule.
posted by Sequence at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


babies should at no point ever be leaping anywhere for any reason, they must remain on the ground. tethers should be used if necessary to maintain an airspace free of infants.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:20 PM on September 15, 2018 [22 favorites]


This may be the first story I've ever read about a criminal offense that did not name, or even allude to the crime in question. None of the news stories I've read have done so.

Certainly in the US we just charge children as adults (obviously we don't let them vote until they are 18, and after than only in certain circumstances).
posted by el io at 5:25 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well done, lawyers! (or should that be "well done lawyers"?)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2018


So when exactly do Leap Babies celebrate/observe their birthdays in non-leap years? 28 February or 1 March? Or do they just have extra special celebrations during leap years? Anyone have any anecdotal experience with this?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:40 PM on September 15, 2018


This is a great example of why I avoid writing software relating to any kind of time. It's just a recipe for headaches.

That said, I have a soft spot for recreational reading of timezone definition files, in which programmers ninety years after a dumb, arbitrary, and poorly-recorded decision have to translate that decision into a couple lines of code. For example:

# From Mark Brader (2003-07-26):
# [According to the Toronto Star] Orillia, Ontario, adopted DST
# effective Saturday, 1912-06-22, 22:00; the article mentions that
# Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay, Ontario) as well as Moose Jaw
# have already done so. In Orillia DST was to run until Saturday,
# 1912-08-31 (no time mentioned), but it was met with considerable
# hostility from certain segments of the public, and was revoked after
# only two weeks - I copied it as Saturday, 1912-07-07, 22:00, but
# presumably that should be -07-06. (1912-06-19, -07-12; also letters
# earlier in June).
posted by kaibutsu at 6:04 PM on September 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


So when exactly do Leap Babies celebrate/observe their birthdays in non-leap years

I worked somewhere once with enforced birthday merriment and I moved my birthday a few weeks to 29 Feb to avoid the sad parties with the accountant and the angry receptionist. Then I quit before the next actual Leap Day rolled around.

Anyway, I like this FPP. It feels like a lateral thinking puzzle has escaped into the wild.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


So when exactly do Leap Babies celebrate/observe their birthdays in non-leap years? 28 February or 1 March? Or do they just have extra special celebrations during leap years? Anyone have any anecdotal experience with this?

I happen to know three (unrelated) Leap Babies and the answer is It depends. One of them celebrates on February 27 because her birthday is "supposed to be" in February, one of them on March 1st because it is "supposed to be" the day after February 27, and I forget what the other did.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2018


This may be the first story I've ever read about a criminal offense that did not name, or even allude to the crime in question. None of the news stories I've read have done so.

Presumably because the journalists are trying to figure out if they’d be violating a minor’s privacy rights by printing those details?
posted by nickmark at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2018 [11 favorites]


I wish this crime had occurred in the US at four corners to add a layer.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


My time machine keeps me permanently out of sync with modern calendars, clocks, and other tethers of an evidentiary nature. So you see, Your Honour, it's simply not possible for me to have been at the scene of the crime. I haven't even been born yet. Wait - did I say "time machine"? Ha ha, of course I didn't mean time machine. There's no such thing as time machines in this period. I meant "My many concussions."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:45 PM on September 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


“How many times has the earth been around the sun since you were born?”

DONE.

Where is my cable court show where I decide what is just and fair and deserving of extreme “are you fucking kidding me with this” side eye
posted by schadenfrau at 7:08 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


> “How many times has the earth been around the sun since you were born?”

Ah, but what if you commit a crime during a leap second?
posted by Phssthpok at 7:13 PM on September 15, 2018 [6 favorites]



So when exactly do Leap Babies celebrate/observe their birthdays in non-leap years? 28 February or 1 March? Or do they just have extra special celebrations during leap years? Anyone have any anecdotal experience with this?


Facebook puts them on March 1, so that's the day they'll get a million Happy Birthday messages from their friends.

It's kind of interesting -- if you go look at the list of upcoming birthdays under events in the desktop version of FB, they show up in the group with February, but if you mouse over, they show as March 1st, and you'll actually get the reminder on March 1st.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:16 PM on September 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


“How many times has the earth been around the sun since you were born?”

Ah, but that is not so clear cut either. For example the solar year is 365.24217 days long. So if you measure from the time to birth to the same time one calendar year later, you will be one-fourth of a day short of a complete revolution around the sun.
posted by JackFlash at 7:17 PM on September 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


I happen to know three (unrelated) Leap Babies and the answer is It depends. One of them celebrates on February 27 because her birthday is "supposed to be" in February, one of them on March 1st because it is "supposed to be" the day after February 27, and I forget what the other did.


Except February which hath 27? Off-by-one errors are the worst.
posted by w0mbat at 7:18 PM on September 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


“How many times has the earth been around the sun since you were born?”

Solar or sidereal times around?
posted by traveler_ at 9:25 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Facebook confuses things even more what with the time zones. The notification relates to the date in the user's time zone so I always end up wishing my American friends happy Birthday a day early and they all forget about me until the day after. This was not an issue back in the days of just mailing Birthday cards.

Leap babies should probably be allocated a legal Birthday when they are registered (one that comes around each year). But that would take all the fun out of it and still piss people off.
posted by kitten magic at 11:35 PM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I send a leap year baby friend a card for every age appropriate birthday...he's not Jewish but I'm considering sending him a Bar Mitzvah card in 2020.
posted by brujita at 11:37 PM on September 15, 2018


I've been thinking, there's got to be like 15,000 leap year people in the country. It's absurd that there's not concrete answers and extensive common law already.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:58 AM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


So according to some judges if the number four has gone missing somehow and I counted one, two, three, I have counted four times. Right...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:59 AM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


“How many times has the earth been around the sun since you were born?”


Isn't the whole point of this exercise that the legal system has a very strict set of definitions and logic based on a framework of precedent and archaic models which doesn't always mesh with common sense or science?

It's kind of like how we all know that when someone expresses "regret" it usually means they know they did a bad thing and they're totally responsible for doing it because our common, working definition of "regret" has shifted to mean "guilty as fuck", yet the legal definition is rigidly fixed to something along the lines of "we acknowledge that this bad thing happened to you, but we claim no responsibility nor do we actually feel sorry for you"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


in much the same way as a person born on February 2, 2000 would not be 18 on February 1, 2018

The defense attorney acknowledges this has nothing to do with leap years.

Seems like there must be loads of case law on "defendant committed crime one day (or two days, fuck, even three days) before their 18th birthday".
posted by duoshao at 5:16 AM on September 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Leap year babies aren’t just born on the last day of February but, more specifically, they are born 28 days after February 1st, right? I would argue since February 28 can never satisfy both conditions, it should never be allowed for determining the non-leap year birth date of people born on February 29th.

The accused was a minor when the crimes in question occurred. Thus, the case belongs in ACT Children’s court.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:10 AM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think that if you deliberately chose that date to commit the crime for this reason, then you should be treated in the most severe way possible.
There should never be any argument about your age.
Next we'll be having people who were in the process of being born at a particular time choosing that time to commit crime so that ther is confusion over there age.
posted by Burn_IT at 10:38 AM on September 16, 2018


What about a Leap Baby committing a crime on the international date line? Or twins born at the stroke of midnight, where one is a Leap Baby and the other is not? The Agatha Christie esque convolutions are endless!
posted by basalganglia at 1:58 PM on September 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am a leap day baby. AMA!

[it's not that exciting, outside of doctor offices asking you when you celebrate. (february! #februarypride!). the martha stewart show had a party episode where the audience was all leap day-babies. people over 6 were asked to sit in the back.0
posted by armacy at 6:18 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Do you have age appropriate birthday parties when a leap year rolls around? Do people send you "To my favourite girl on her fifth birthday" type cards, even though you're actually 20?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Leap-age-appropriate cards/events ended in my real-age 20s; I think last time I tried the free breakfast at Denny's when I was ~20 (real, so ~leap5) was denied.
posted by armacy at 8:59 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of an old Asimov short-short story, "A Loint of Paw", which ends with an execrable pun.
posted by hanov3r at 1:58 PM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm ok with that pun, even though i had to mentally pronounce niche the wrong way to get it to rhyme with stitch. The set up is clean and short and the pun is beautifully convoluted.

Niche rhymes with quiche and not with stitch or witch, though, for real.
posted by trif at 2:47 AM on September 18, 2018


See also microfiche and kitsch or bitch or hitch or pitch...
posted by trif at 2:49 AM on September 18, 2018


/NITCH/ is the most common US pronunciation, while /NEESH/ is the most common pronunciation in the UK.

Also, I grew up with microfiche pronounced as "micro-fish", but that may be remnants of my dad's NYC upbringing.
posted by hanov3r at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I say both niche and microfiche like quiche. I'm sure I picked up the pronunciations from TV and from work (I used to work with microfilm/microfiche in a library), but I've never heard of niche pronounced like "stitch".
posted by numaner at 6:32 PM on September 18, 2018


BrotherCaine: "I wish this crime had occurred in the US at four corners to add a layer."

Or better yet, Yellowstone's "Zone of Death."
posted by Chrysostom at 3:25 PM on September 25, 2018


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