What To Do When Different Cultural Norms Clash With American Laws?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jun 07, 2022 | 0 Comments

You've probably seen the scenario unfold or lived it yourself. Maybe your parents lived in the gray area between spanking and child abuse. Perhaps you were raised in a time, country, or culture where women are taught to be submissive, and men are told to be strong—even if it means crossing the boundary line of the law.

What do you do when one's own personal or cultural norms conflict with prevailing laws?

If you want to avoid charges for domestic violence or other crimes, then you'll have to work hard to change.

Many Cultures Conflict with American Laws

A story from The Washington Times illustrates how certain immigrants struggle to conform to America's laws and cultural mores. In many nations—this article focused on Afghanistan—violence against women and other acts forbidden in the United States are sometimes legally justifiable.

In certain countries, male family members have dominion over female family members, including their wives. In the United States, this is obviously not the case. The Times article documents several acts that, legal considerations aside, most Americans consider to be heinous.

In cultural pockets around the world, laws and rules are not always written down. When they are, those rules often do not match the ones we honor in the United States.

When an immigrant moves to the United States, they must learn to conform to U.S. laws or face legal ramifications.

Even Americans Can Be In Conflict With the Law

It's not just those born in other countries who find themselves in contrast to American laws. Obviously, plenty of Americans get into legal trouble each year. In certain cases, the trouble stems from cultural beliefs that clash with certain American penal codes.

Certain insular cultures within the United States have garnered attention from law enforcement. Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and David Koresh's Branch Davidians are two notorious examples of subcultures that ran afoul of American law.

In almost every conceivable example, it is American law that prevails when two cultural norms clash. For those who want to avoid a difficult life, incarceration, or even death, the only option is to change.

Tips for Changing Deeply Held But Illegal Beliefs

A Harvard psychologist explains that you may change some of your most deeply held beliefs by:

  1. Recognizing where your beliefs have veered from “reality” or, in this case, the law
  2. Acknowledging that you have the power to change those beliefs
  3. Recognizing that the beliefs you've held so strongly can be changed and may not be as foundational as you've believed until now
  4. Focusing on moving on to new beliefs, rather than beating yourself up about your past beliefs
  5. Going ahead and “leaving your old story behind”

Setting aside deeply held beliefs is not easy, but in many cases is absolutely necessary. When cultural norms run counter to American laws, the cost of holding onto certain beliefs could be incarceration.

Get Legal Help Today If Your Cultural Norms Have Led You Afoul of the Law

If you or a loved one is facing legal problems stemming from cultural differences, your only choice is to fight for your rights and the best possible outcome.  Whether facing a restraining order, domestic violence criminal charges, immigration concerns, or professional licensing issues, the consequences can be significant, and attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate the various issues associated with legal trouble.  Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your case online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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