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Criminally Ignorant$
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Alexander Sarch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190056575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190056575.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Criminally Ignorant

Alexander Sarch

Oxford University Press

This introduction outlines the general questions to be investigated in Criminally Ignorant: Why the Law Pretends We Know What We Don’t and provides a roadmap of the arguments to come. The overarching aim of the book is to defend a theory of when and why the criminal law may legitimately impute mental states on the basis of equal culpability. This helps place the existing willful ignorance doctrine on a more secure normative foundation, while at the same time revealing the pressing need for doctrinal reforms. The overall project is not limited to willful ignorance, however. The normative idea behind the willful ignorance doctrine—that we may impute missing mental states to defendants on equal culpability grounds—is surprisingly fertile, and, if taken seriously, grounds an array of further imputation principles. The book thus seeks to develop a theory that places the idea of equal culpability imputation on solid theoretical footing, while also demarcating its proper boundaries.

Keywords:   willful ignorance doctrine, culpability, legal fiction, imputation principles, criminal law

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