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University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Criminology

Criminal law

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Internal And External Challenges To Culpability, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2021

Internal And External Challenges To Culpability, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This article was presented at “Guilty Minds: A Virtual Conference on Mens Rea and Criminal Justice Reform” at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It is forthcoming in Arizona State Law Journal Volume 53, Issue 2.

The thesis of this article is simple: As long as we maintain the current folk psychological conception of ourselves as intentional and potentially rational creatures, as people and not simply as machines, mental states will inevitably remain central to ascriptions of culpability and responsibility more generally. It is also desirable. Nonetheless, we are in a condition of unprecedented internal ...


A General Mitigation For Disturbance-Driven Crimes?: Psychic State, Personal Choice, And Normative Inquiries, Paul H. Robinson Oct 2018

A General Mitigation For Disturbance-Driven Crimes?: Psychic State, Personal Choice, And Normative Inquiries, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

It is argued here that the narrow provoked “heat of passion” mitigation available under current law ought to be significantly expanded to include not just murder but all felonies and not just “heat of passion” but potentially all mental or emotional disturbances, whenever the offender’s situation and capacities meaningfully reduce the offender’s blameworthiness for the violation. In determining eligibility for mitigation, the jury should take into account (a) the extent to which the offender was acting under the influence of mental or emotional disturbance (the psychic state inquiry), (b) given the offender’s situation and capacities, the extent ...


A Brief Summary And Critique Of Criminal Liability Rules For Intoxicated Conduct, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2018

A Brief Summary And Critique Of Criminal Liability Rules For Intoxicated Conduct, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay provides an overview of the legal issues relating to intoxication, including the effect of voluntary intoxication in imputing to an offender a required offense culpable state of mind that he may not actually have had at the time of the offense; the effect of involuntary intoxication in providing a defense by negating a required offense culpability element or by satisfying the conditions of a general excuse; the legal effect of alcoholism or addiction in rendering intoxication involuntary; and the limitation on using alcoholism or addiction in this way if the offender can be judged to be reasonably responsible ...


Tragedy, Outrage & Reform: Crimes That Changed Our World: 1983 – Thurman Beating - Domestic Violence, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Aug 2017

Tragedy, Outrage & Reform: Crimes That Changed Our World: 1983 – Thurman Beating - Domestic Violence, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Can a crime make our world better? Crimes are the worst of humanity’s wrongs but, oddly, they sometimes do more than anything else to improve our lives. As it turns out, it is often the outrageousness itself that does the work. Ordinary crimes are accepted as the background noise of our everyday existence but some crimes make people stop and take notice – because they are so outrageous, or so curious, or so heart-wrenching. These “trigger crimes” are the cases that this book is about.

They offer some incredible stories about how people, good and bad, change the world around ...


Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The notion of “democratizing criminal law” has an initial appeal because, after all, we believe in the importance of democracy and because criminal law is so important – it protects us from the most egregious wrongs and is the vehicle by which we allow the most serious governmental intrusions in the lives of individuals. Given criminal law’s special status, isn’t it appropriate that this most important and most intrusive governmental power be subject to the constraints of democratic determination?

But perhaps the initial appeal of this grand principle must give way to practical realities. As much as we are ...


How Being Right Can Risk Wrongs, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Aug 2016

How Being Right Can Risk Wrongs, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This is a chapter from the new book The Vigilante Echo. Previous chapters have made clear that some vigilantism can be morally justified where the government has failed in its promise under the social contract to protect and to do justice. But this chapter explains how even moral vigilante action can be problematic for the larger society. Vigilantes may try to do the right thing but are likely to lack the training and professional neutrality of police. They may be successful, but only on pushing the crime problem to an adjacent neighborhood. Because their open lawbreaking may seem admirable to ...


Shadow Vigilante Officials Manipulate And Distort To Force Justice From An Apparently Reluctant System, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Aug 2016

Shadow Vigilante Officials Manipulate And Distort To Force Justice From An Apparently Reluctant System, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The real danger of the vigilante impulse is not of hordes of citizens, frustrated by the system’s doctrines of disillusionment, rising up to take the law into their own hands. Frustration can spark a vigilante impulse but such classic aggressive vigilantism is not the typical response. More common is the expression of disillusionment in less brazen ways, by a more surreptitious undermining and distortion of the operation of the criminal justice system.

Shadow vigilantes, as they might be called, can affect the operation of the system in a host of important ways. For example, when people act as classic ...


What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2016

What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Equality in criminal sentencing often translates into equalizing outcomes and stamping out variations, whether race-based, geographic, or random. This approach conflates the concept of equality with one contestable conception focused on outputs and numbers, not inputs and processes. Racial equality is crucial, but a concern with eliminating racism has hypertrophied well beyond race. Equalizing outcomes seems appealing as a neutral way to dodge contentious substantive policy debates about the purposes of punishment. But it actually privileges deterrence and incapacitation over rehabilitation, subjective elements of retribution, and procedural justice, and it provides little normative guidance for punishment. It also has unintended ...


Identifying Criminals’ Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick Jan 2016

Identifying Criminals’ Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

There is a 250 year old presumption in the criminology and law enforcement literature that people are deterred more by increases in the certainty rather than increases in the severity of legal sanctions. We call this presumption the Certainty Aversion Presumption (CAP). Simple criminal decision making models suggest that criminals must be risk-seeking if they behave consistently with CAP. This implication leads to disturbing interpretations, such as criminals being categorically different than law abiding people, who often display risk-averse behavior while making financial decisions. Moreover, policy discussions that incorrectly rely on criminals’ risk attitudes implied by CAP are ill-informed, and ...


Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Jan 2015

Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Using stories from the utopian non-punishment hippie communes of the late 1960's, the essay challenges today’s anti-punishment movement by demonstrating that the benefits of cooperative action are available only with the adoption of a system for punishing violations of core rules. Rather than being an evil system anathema to right-thinking people, punishment is the lynchpin of the cooperative action that has created human success.

This is Chapter 3 from the general audience book Pirates, Prisoners, and Lepers: Lessons from Life Outside the Law. Chapter 4 of the book is also available on SSRN at http://papers.ssrn.com ...


The Moral Vigilante And Her Cousins In The Shadows, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2015

The Moral Vigilante And Her Cousins In The Shadows, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

By definition, vigilantes cannot be legally justified – if they satisfied a justification defense, for example, they would not be law-breakers – but they may well be morally justified, if their aim is to provide the order and justice that the criminal justice system has failed to provide in a breach of the social contract. Yet, even moral vigilantism is detrimental to society and ought to be avoided, ideally not by prosecuting moral vigilantism but by avoiding the creation of situations that would call for it. Unfortunately, the U.S. criminal justice system has adopted a wide range of criminal law rules ...


Justice: 1850s San Francisco And The California Gold Rush, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Jan 2015

Justice: 1850s San Francisco And The California Gold Rush, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Using stories from the 1848-1851 California gold miners, the 1851 San Francisco vigilante committees, Nazi concentration camps of the 1940s, and wagon trains of American westward migration in the 1840s, the chapter illustrates that it is part of human nature to see doing justice as a value in itself—in people’s minds it is not dependent for justification on the practical benefits it brings. Having justice done is sufficiently important to people that they willingly suffer enormous costs to obtain it, even when they were neither hurt by the wrong nor in a position to benefit from punishing the ...


Murder Mitigation In The Fifty-Two American Jurisdictions: A Case Study In Doctrinal Interrelation Analysis, Paul H. Robinson Apr 2014

Murder Mitigation In The Fifty-Two American Jurisdictions: A Case Study In Doctrinal Interrelation Analysis, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The essay surveys the law in the fifty-two American jurisdictions with regard to the three doctrines that commonly provide a mitigation or defense to murder liability: common law provocation and its modern counterpart, extreme mental or emotional disturbance; the so-called diminished capacity defense and its modern counterpart, mental illness negating an offense element; and the insanity defense. The essay then examines the patterns among the jurisdictions in the particular formulation they adopt for the three doctrines, and the combinations in which those formulations commonly appear in different jurisdictions. After this review, the essay steps back to see what kinds of ...


Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister Jan 2014

Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A number of articles and empirical studies over the past decade, most by Paul Robinson and co-authors, have suggested a relationship between the extent of the criminal law's reputation for being just in its distribution of criminal liability and punishment in the eyes of the community – its "moral credibility" – and its ability to gain that community's deference and compliance through a variety of mechanisms that enhance its crime-control effectiveness. This has led to proposals to have criminal liability and punishment rules reflect lay intuitions of justice – "empirical desert" – as a means of enhancing the system's moral credibility ...


Commentary: Reflections On Remorse, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2014

Commentary: Reflections On Remorse, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This commentary on Zhong et al. begins by addressing the definition of remorse. It then primarily focuses on the relation between remorse and various justifications for punishment commonly accepted in Anglo-American jurisprudence and suggests that remorse cannot be used in a principled way in sentencing. It examines whether forensic psychiatrists have special expertise in evaluating remorse and concludes that they do not. The final section is a pessimistic meditation on sentencing disparities, which is a striking finding of Zhong et al.


Natural Law & Lawlessness: Modern Lessons From Pirates, Lepers, Eskimos, And Survivors, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2013

Natural Law & Lawlessness: Modern Lessons From Pirates, Lepers, Eskimos, And Survivors, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The natural experiments of history present an opportunity to test Hobbes' view of government and law as the wellspring of social order. Groups have found themselves in a wide variety of situations in which no governmental law existed, from shipwrecks to gold mining camps to failed states. Yet the wide variety of situations show common patterns among the groups in their responses to their often difficult circumstances. Rather than survival of the fittest, a more common reaction is social cooperation and a commitment to fairness and justice, although both can be subverted in certain predictable ways. The absent-law situations also ...


"Life Without Parole" Under Modern Theories Of Punishment, Paul H. Robinson Jun 2012

"Life Without Parole" Under Modern Theories Of Punishment, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Life without parole seems an attractive and logical punishment under the modern coercive crime-control principles of general deterrence and incapacitation, a point reinforced by its common use under habitual offender statutes like "three strikes." Yet, there is increasing evidence to doubt the efficacy of using such principles to distributive punishment. The prerequisite conditions for effective general deterrence are the exception rather than the rule. Moreover, effective and fair preventive detention is difficult when attempted through the criminal justice system. If we really are committed to preventive detention, it is better for both society and potential detainees that it be done ...


Protecting Liberty And Autonomy: Desert/Disease Jurisprudence, Stephen J. Morse Oct 2011

Protecting Liberty And Autonomy: Desert/Disease Jurisprudence, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This contribution to a symposium on the morality of preventive restriction on liberty begins by describing the positive law of preventive detention, which I term "desert/disease jurisprudence." Then it provides a brief excursus about risk prediction (estimation), which is at the heart of all preventive detention practices. Part IV considers whether proposed expansions of desert jurisprudence are consistent with retributive theories of justice, which ground desert jurisprudence. I conclude that this is a circle that cannot be squared. The following Part canvasses expansions of disease jurisprudence, especially the involuntary civil commitment of mentally abnormal, sexually violent predators, and the ...


Mental Disorder And Criminal Law, Stephen J. Morse Apr 2011

Mental Disorder And Criminal Law, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Mental disorder among criminal defendants affects every stage of the criminal justice process, from investigational issues to competence to be executed. As in all other areas of mental health law, at least some people with mental disorders, are treated specially. The underlying thesis of this Article is that people with mental disorder should, as far as is practicable and consistent with justice, be treated just like everyone else. In some areas, the law is relatively sensible and just. In others, too often the opposite is true and the laws sweep too broadly. I believe, however, that special rules to deal ...


Estimating The Deterrent Effect Of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements, David S. Abrams Jan 2011

Estimating The Deterrent Effect Of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements, David S. Abrams

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Increasing criminal sanctions may reduce crime through two primary mechanisms: deterrence and incapacitation. Disentangling their effects is crucial, since each mechanism has different implications for optimal policy setting. I use the introduction of state add-on gun laws, which enhance sentences for defendants possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, to isolate the deterrent effect of incarceration. Defendants subject to add-ons would be incarcerated in the absence of the law change, so any short-term impact on crime can be attributed solely to deterrence. Using cross-state variation in the timing of law passage dates, I find that the average add-on ...


Gene-Environment Interactions, Criminal Responsibility, And Sentencing, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2011

Gene-Environment Interactions, Criminal Responsibility, And Sentencing, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This chapter in, Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology (K. Dodge & M. Rutter, eds. 2011), considers the relevance of GxE to criminal responsibility and sentencing. It begins with a number of preliminary assumptions that will inform the analysis. It then turns to the law’s view of the person, including the law’s implicit psychology, and the criteria for criminal responsibility. A few false starts or distractions about responsibility are disposed of briefly. With this necessary background in place, the chapter then turns specifically to the relation between GxE and criminal responsibility. It suggests that GxE causes of criminal behavior have ...


Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2011

Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

If, in the criminal justice context, "mercy" is defined as forgoing punishment that is deserved, then much of what passes for mercy is not. Giving only minor punishment to a first-time youthful offender, for example, might be seen as an exercise of mercy but in fact may be simply the application of standard blameworthiness principles, under which the offender's lack of maturity may dramatically reduce his blameworthiness for even a serious offense. Desert is a nuanced and rich concept that takes account of a wide variety of factors. The more a writer misperceives desert as wooden and objective, the ...


Realism, Punishment & Reform [A Reply To Braman, Kahan, And Hoffman, "Some Realism About Punishment Naturalism”], Paul H. Robinson, Owen D. Jones, Robert O. Kurzban Oct 2010

Realism, Punishment & Reform [A Reply To Braman, Kahan, And Hoffman, "Some Realism About Punishment Naturalism”], Paul H. Robinson, Owen D. Jones, Robert O. Kurzban

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Professors Donald Braman, Dan Kahan, and David Hoffman, in their article "Some Realism About Punishment Naturalism," to be published in an upcoming issue of the University of Chicago Law Review, critique a series of our articles: Concordance and Conflict in Intuitions of Justice (http://ssrn.com/abstract=932067), The Origins of Shared Intuitions of Justice (http://.ssrn.com/abstract=952726), and Intuitions of Justice: Implications for Criminal Law and Justice Policy (http://.ssrn.com/abstract=976026). Our reply, here, follows their article in that coming issue. As we demonstrate, they have misunderstood our views on, and thus the implications of ...


Do Judges Vary In Their Treatment Of Race?, David S. Abrams, Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan Sep 2010

Do Judges Vary In Their Treatment Of Race?, David S. Abrams, Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Are minorities treated differently by the legal system? Systematic racial differences in case characteristics, many unobservable, make this a difficult question to answer directly. In this paper, we estimate whether judges differ from each other in how they sentence minorities, avoiding potential bias from unobservable case characteristics by exploiting the random assignment of cases to judges. We measure the between-judge variation in the difference in incarceration rates and sentence lengths between African-American and White defendants. We perform a Monte Carlo simulation in order to explicitly construct the appropriate counterfactual, where race does not influence judicial sentencing. In our data set ...


Lost In Translation?: An Essay On Law And Neuroscience, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2010

Lost In Translation?: An Essay On Law And Neuroscience, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The rapid expansion in neuroscientific research fuelled by the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] has been accompanied by popular and scholarly commentary suggesting that neuroscience may substantially alter, and perhaps will even revolutionize, both law and morality. This essay, a contribution to, Law and Neuroscience (M. Freeman, Ed. 2011), will attempt to put such claims in perspective and to consider how properly to think about the relation between law and neuroscience. The overarching thesis is that neuroscience may indeed make some contributions to legal doctrine, practice and theory, but such contributions will be few and modest for the ...


Criminalization Tensions: Empirical Desert, Changing Norms & Rape Reform, Paul H. Robinson Oct 2009

Criminalization Tensions: Empirical Desert, Changing Norms & Rape Reform, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This short Article is part of the organizers’ larger Criminalization Project, which seeks, among other things, to develop theories for how criminalization decisions should be made. The argument presented here is that there is instrumentalist, as well as deontological, value in having criminalization decisions that generally track the community’s judgments about what is sufficiently condemnable to be criminal, but that there are also good reasons to deviate from community views. Interestingly, those in the business of social reform may be the ones with the greatest stake in normally tracking community views, in order to avoid community perceptions of the ...


Final Report Of The Illinois Criminal Code Rewrite And Reform Commission, Paul H. Robinson, Michael T. Cahill Jan 2003

Final Report Of The Illinois Criminal Code Rewrite And Reform Commission, Paul H. Robinson, Michael T. Cahill

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The Governor of Illinois created a commission to examine the problems with Illinois criminal law and to rewrite the Illinois criminal code. This two-volume Final Report of the Illinois Criminal Code Rewrite and Reform Commission proposes a new criminal code, in volume 1, together with an official commentary, in volume 2, that explains each provision and how and why it differs from existing law. The introduction to the Report summarizes the reasons for and the importance of criminal code reform, and describes the techniques used in this rewrite project, including both the project’s drafting principles and the methods by ...


Final Report Of The Kentucky Penal Code Revision Project, Paul H. Robinson, Kentucky Criminal Justice Council Staff Jan 2003

Final Report Of The Kentucky Penal Code Revision Project, Paul H. Robinson, Kentucky Criminal Justice Council Staff

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The Kentucky Criminal Justice Council, a constitutional body in Kentucky, undertook this project to examine the problems with Kentucky criminal law and to rewrite the Kentucky criminal code. This two-volume Final Report of the Kentucky Penal Code Revision Project proposes a new criminal code, in volume 1, together with an official commentary, in volume 2, that explains each provision and how and why it differs from existing law. The introduction to the Report summarizes the reasons for and the importance of criminal code reform, and describes the techniques used in this rewrite project, including both the project’s drafting principles ...