Criminal Liability and ‘Smart’ Environments
This chapter challenges the commonsense assumption of criminal lawyers and moral philosophers who believe that only human persons can qualify for the kind of legal personhood that allows for criminal liability. Despite the attribution, in practice, of such liability to collective entities like a corporation, the theoretical justification often reduces to an explanation in terms of an aggregate of individuals' responsibility or to a purely instrumental usage of the legal figure of personhood (as an ungrounded legal fiction). The chapter begins with an analysis of legal personhood within the current legal framework, discussing whether, and to what extent, natural persons, animals, corporations, associations, artificial agents, or distributed intelligent multi-agent systems are, previously were, or should be regarded as legal persons. Next it provides an introduction to smart environments, using the example of the high-tech environment of an aeroplane cockpit to sensitize the reader to what is at stake here. This lays the groundwork for an analysis of the concepts of agency, moral agency, and patiency, aiming to confront legal philosophy with findings from the field of Information Ethics, mainly building on Floridi and Sanders' understanding of mindless moral agency. Finally, the potential of the attribution of a restricted or full legal personhood to artificial agents or smart environments is discussed, with respect to liability for regulatory offences and for crimes.
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