"What happened to the other boy? Wasn't he disciplined, too?"
"I don't know, Dad."
"Because this is assault," Mr. Eberhardt said. "You can't choke another person. It's against the law." (3.64-66)
This conversation between Roy and his father comes after Dana tries to choke Roy on the bus. We learn two things from this exchange. One, that there is an expected penalty for lawbreakers and two, Dana doesn't care much for laws.
Although Officer Delinko liked the town of Coconut Cove, he had become bored with his job, which mostly involved traffic enforcement. He had joined the police force because he wanted to solve crimes and arrest criminals. (4.38)
Delinko is itching to get in on some action. Which is probably why he jumps at the chance to solve the Mother Paula's mystery. But he also has good intentions: he wants to rid the streets of the bad guys.
At breakfast the next morning, Roy asked if it was against the law for a kid his age not to go to school.
His mother said, "Well, I'm not sure if it's an actual law but - "
"Oh yes, it is," his father cut in. "Truancy is what it's called." (6.1-3)
Unfortunately this part of the book is not fiction. Truancy is a real offense that could get you in some real trouble. But Mullet Fingers doesn't have time to concern himself with such trivial matters when there are owls to be saved.
In truth Roy had only one short chapter to read for Mr. Ryan's history class, but he wanted an excuse to stay home. He sensed that Mullet Fingers was planning another illegal visit to the Mother Paula's site. (14.122)
Roy is becoming aware of Mullet Fingers' method of protest, and he's not exactly on board with it. And Roy must really not want to participate in the activities if he's using homework as an excuse not to go.
In addition to a fear of getting caught, Roy had serious qualms about trying anything illegal - and there was no dodging the fact that vandalism was a crime, however noble the cause.
Just because something was legal didn't automatically make it right.
Roy still hadn't settled the argument between his brain and his heart. Surely there had to be a way for him to help the birds - and Beatrice's stepbrother - without breaking the law. (15.3-6)
Roy finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. He knows he should obey the law but doesn't necessarily agree with that law. So like any good activist, he starts brainstorming on how to stand up for what he believes in...legally.
"Matherson's a hard case," Officer Delinko told the captain.
"Yeah," the sergeant said, "he's been around the block a few times."
The captain nodded. "I saw his rap sheet. But here's what bothers me: The kid's a thief, not a practical joker. I can't picture him dumping alligators in port-a-potties. Stealing port-a-potties maybe."
"I wondered about that, too," Officer Delinko said.
The Mother Paula's vandal had displayed a dark sense of humor that didn't fit the Matherson boy's dim-witted criminal history. (17.76-80)
Dana Matherson is no stranger to the wrong side of the law. But his bad reputation actually works in his favor and makes him look less guilty for the Mother Paula crimes.
"Honest," Roy said. "I looked it up on the Internet. Those owls are protected - it's totally against the law to mess with the burrows unless you've got a special permit, and Mother Paula's permit file is missing from City Hall. What does that tell you?" (18.139)
Oh, the internet is a glorious thing. Not sure if something's legal? Just Google it. But Roy goes the extra mile and takes what he learns about the special permits and checks to see if Mother Paula's has them. Delinko should take some notes from this little detective.
"How can the pancake people get away with this?" demanded another.
"I don't know," Roy said, "but it's not legal, and it's not right."
Here Mr. Ryan interrupted firmly. "Hold on, Roy, what do you mean it's "not legal'? You need to be careful when you're making those kinds of serious allegations.
Excitedly Roy explained that the burrowing owls were protected by state and federal laws, and that it was illegal to harm the birds or disturb active burrows without getting special government permits. (18.179-182)
Mr. Ryan makes a good point here. You have to be absolutely positively sure that something is illegal before throwing around those words. Good thing that Roy has information to back up his claim.
"What does all this stuff mean, Roy? What exactly am I looking for?"
"I think it's called an E.I.S.," Roy said, reciting what his father had told him.
"Which stands for...?"
"Environmental Impact Statement."
"Right! Of course," the reporter said. "Every big construction project is suppose to do one. That's the law."
"Yeah, but Mother Paula's E.I.S. isn't in there." (21.67-72)
Here's a nice clear cut example of right and wrong. If the law says a company should have an Environmental Impact Statement, well then, they better have one. Mother Paula's must have missed that memo.
Consequently, the Environmental Impact Statement conveniently disappeared from the city files. The report later turned up in a golf bag owned by Councilman Bruce Grandy, along with an envelope containing approximately $4,500 in cash. Councilman Grandy indignantly denied that the money was a bribe from the pancake people; then he rushed out and hired the most expensive defense lawyer in Fort Myers. (Epilogue.3)
So turns out that Mother Paula's did have an E.I.S. But then they didn't. But then they did again. Unfortunately for Councilman Grandy, it showed up in his possession. Accepting bribes as a politician is another example of lawbreaking. And if someone acts guilty, it's likely that they are guilty. We're looking at you, Grandy.