Vice Squad
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Life is More-or-Less Elsewhere, Except for Shopaholics

Vice Squad's guest blogging at Crescat continues apace, with this
concerning, yes, searches, this one involving roadblocks.

Over at Overlawyered, there's a post on how voluntary gambling
bans have proven at times to be porous, leading to, yes, lawsuits
from compulsive gamblers.

The post below is another one that I "guested" for CS (in a slightly different
form), entitled "Oniomania".....

....No, it has nothing to do with onions -- it's just a fancy word for "shopaholism,"
and the electronic edition of the Chicago Tribune has an article up (here,
registration required) about the affliction (without the nifty terminology, alas). A sample:

"Much like those addicted to drugs or alcohol, shopaholics experience withdrawal
symptoms such as irritability, depression and loss of control.

They also deny they have a problem, claiming it's normal to have 50 pairs of pants
in the closet with sales tags still attached. In addition, some shopaholics suffer
blackouts the way alcoholics do, [Indiana University addiction researcher Ruth] Engs
said. They will return home not remembering how much they bought or what's in
the shopping bags they carry.

And, as with other addictions, there may be an effort to conceal the problem."

In a Chicago case from a couple years back, Ms. Elizabeth Roach pleaded guilty to a
charge stemming from her embezzling more than $240,000 from her employer. The
embezzled money fueled shopping trips. The trial judge was more lenient to Ms. Roach
than the 12 to 18 months in prison (among other punishments) called for by federal
sentencing guidelines: along with a fine and restitution, he imposed six months of
home confinement and six weeks of work release rather than a prison term. The judge
noted that the embezzlement was motivated by compulsive shopping and depression.

The government appealed the downward departure from the sentencing guidelines,
and a three-judge federal appeals panel found the trial judge’s leniency misplaced
(in United States v. Roach (2002), 296 F.3d 565). They remanded the case back to the
original judge for resentencing; he reluctantly complied, ordering Ms. Roach to spend
12 months in prison, though that sentence is stayed pending appeal. Neither
depression nor oniomania was accepted by the appeals panel as a valid reason for
reducing penalties for embezzlement. A defendant would have even less hope for
leniency for embezzlement motivated by the need for money to feed a heroin or
cocaine addiction: the federal sentencing guidelines (U.S.S.G. § 5K2.13 available
here) explicitly note that, while significantly reduced mental capacity could justify
a "downward departure" from the prescribed punishment, this is not the case if
"the impairment was caused by the defendant’s voluntary use of drugs or other

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