Is Strict Liability Always Wrong?
The imposition of strict liability in the criminal law is widely thought by scholars to be unjustified. This chapter argues that it is wrong to convict the blameless of stigmatic crimes. We would be right to object to the enactment of a strict liability homicide offence of, say, causing death by one's action. The mere causing of death does not imply culpability, and such an offence would expose morally innocent persons to criminal liability in a way that is profoundly objectionable. This is the central claim: where strict liability leads to conviction of the blameless, its use in stigmatic crimes is always unjustified. However, it does not follow that all types of strict liability offences are wrong. In particular, there are reasons for thinking that strict liability may be legitimate in non-stigmatic offences (called quasi-criminal regulations). The chapter canvasses various instrumental arguments both for and against using strict liability.
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