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Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson Feb 2021

Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Modern criminal law scholars and policymakers assume they are free to construct criminal law rules by focusing exclusively on the criminal justice theory of the day. But this “blank slate” conception of criminal lawmaking is dangerously misguided. In fact, lawmakers are writing on a slate on which core principles are already indelibly written and realistically they are free only to add detail in the implementation of those principles and to add additional provisions not inconsistent with them. Attempts to do otherwise are destined to produce tragic results from both utilitarian and retributivist views.

Many writers dispute that such core principles ...


In Defense Of Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb Jan 2021

In Defense Of Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The criminal justice system’s reputation with the community can have a significant effect on the extent to which people are willing to comply with its demands and internalize its norms. In the context of criminal law, the empirical studies suggest that ordinary people expect the criminal justice system to do justice and avoid injustice, as they perceive it – what has been called “empirical desert” to distinguish it from the “deontological desert” of moral philosophers. The empirical studies and many real-world natural experiments suggest that a criminal justice system that regularly deviates from empirical desert loses moral credibility and thereby ...


Undemocratic Crimes, Paul H. Robinson, Jonathan C. Wilt Jan 2021

Undemocratic Crimes, Paul H. Robinson, Jonathan C. Wilt

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

One might assume that in a working democracy the criminal law rules would reflect the community’s shared judgments regarding justice and punishment. This is especially true because social science research shows that lay people generally think about criminal liability and punishment in consistent ways: in terms of desert, doing justice and avoiding injustice. Moreover, there are compelling arguments for demanding consistency between community views and criminal law rules based upon the importance of democratic values, effective crime-control, and the deontological value of justice itself.

It may then come as a surprise, and a disappointment, that a wide range of ...


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 ...


Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse Nov 2020

Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay responds to Hirstein, Sifferd and Fagan’s book, Responsible Brains (MIT Press, 2018), which claims that executive function is the guiding mechanism that supports both responsible agency and the necessity for some excuses. In contrast, I suggest that executive function is not the universal acid and the neuroscience at present contributes almost nothing to the necessary psychological level of explanation and analysis. To the extent neuroscience can be useful, it is virtually entirely dependent on well-validated psychology to correlate with the neuroscientific variables under investigation. The essay considers what executive function is and what the neuroscience adds to ...


A Truce In The Criminal Law Distributive Principle Wars?, Paul H. Robinson Oct 2020

A Truce In The Criminal Law Distributive Principle Wars?, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Crime-control utilitarians and retributivist philosophers have long been at war over the appropriate distributive principle for criminal liability and punishment, with little apparent possibility of reconciliation between the two. In the utilitarians’ view, the imposition of punishment can be justified only by the practical benefit that it provides: avoiding future crime. In the retributivists’ view, doing justice for past wrongs is a value in itself that requires no further justification. The competing approaches simply use different currencies: fighting future crime versus doing justice for past wrongs.

It is argued here that the two are in fact reconcilable, in a fashion ...


Indoctrination And Social Influence As A Defense To Crime: Are We Responsible For Who We Are?, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb May 2020

Indoctrination And Social Influence As A Defense To Crime: Are We Responsible For Who We Are?, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A patriotic POW is brainwashed by his North Korean captors into refusing repatriation and undertaking treasonous anti-American propaganda for the communist regime. Despite the general abhorrence of treason in time of war, the American public opposes criminal liability for such indoctrinated soldiers, yet existing criminal law provides no defense or mitigation because, at the time of the offense, the indoctrinated offender suffers no cognitive or control dysfunction, no mental or emotional impairment, and no external or internal compulsion. Rather, he was acting purely in the exercise of free of will, albeit based upon beliefs and values that he had not ...


Sobering Up After The Seventh Inning: Alcohol And Crime Around The Ballpark, Jonathan Klick, John M. Macdonald Apr 2020

Sobering Up After The Seventh Inning: Alcohol And Crime Around The Ballpark, Jonathan Klick, John M. Macdonald

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Objectives: This study examines the impact of alcohol consumption in a Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium on area level counts of crime. The modal practice at MLB stadiums is to stop selling alcoholic beverages after the seventh inning. Baseball is not a timed game, so the duration between end of the seventh inning (last call for alcohol) and the end of the game varies considerably, providing a unique natural experiment that allows us to estimate the relationship between alcohol consumption and crime near a stadium on game days to non-game days and to areas around sports bars that fans also ...


The Cost Of Doing Business: Corporate Crime And Punishment Post-Crisis, Dorothy S. Lund, Natasha Sarin Feb 2020

The Cost Of Doing Business: Corporate Crime And Punishment Post-Crisis, Dorothy S. Lund, Natasha Sarin

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

For many years, law and economics scholars, as well as politicians and regulators, have debated whether corporate criminal enforcement overdeters beneficial corporate activity or in the alternative, lets corporate criminals off too easily. This debate has recently expanded in its polarization: On the one hand, academics, judges, and politicians have excoriated the DOJ for failing to send guilty bankers to jail in the wake of the financial crisis; on the other, the DOJ has since relaxed policies aimed to secure individual lability and reduced the size of fines and number of prosecutions.

A crucial and yet understudied piece of evidence ...


Mitigations: The Forgotten Side Of The Proportionality Principle, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2020

Mitigations: The Forgotten Side Of The Proportionality Principle, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In the first change to the Model Penal Code since its promulgation in 1962, the American Law Institute in 2017 set blameworthiness proportionality as the dominant distributive principle for criminal punishment. Empirical studies suggest that this is in fact the principle that ordinary people use in assessing proper punishment. Its adoption as the governing distributive principle makes good sense because it promotes not only the classic desert retributivism of moral philosophers but also crime-control utilitarianism, by enhancing the criminal law’s moral credibility with the community and thereby promoting deference, compliance, acquiescence, and internalization of its norms, rather than suffering ...


After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne Aug 2019

After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

While an offender’s conduct before and during the crime is the traditional focus of criminal law and sentencing rules, an examination of post-offense conduct can also be important in promoting criminal justice goals. After the crime, different offenders make different choices and have different experiences, and those differences can suggest appropriately different treatment by judges, correctional officials, probation and parole supervisors, and other decision-makers in the criminal justice system.

Positive post-offense conduct ought to be acknowledged and rewarded, not only to encourage it but also as a matter of fair and just treatment. This essay describes four kinds of ...


Falling Between The Cracks: Understanding Why States Fail In Protecting Our Children From Crime, Michal Gilad Nov 2018

Falling Between The Cracks: Understanding Why States Fail In Protecting Our Children From Crime, Michal Gilad

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The article is the first to take an inclusive look at the monumental problem of crime exposure during childhood, which is estimated to be one of the most damaging and costly public health and public safety problem in our society today. It takes-on the challenging task of ‘naming’ the problem by coining the term Comprehensive Childhood Crime Impact or in short the Triple-C Impact. Informed by scientific findings, the term embodies the full effect of direct and indirect crime exposure on children due to their unique developmental characteristics, and the spillover effect the problem has on our society as a ...


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 ...


Report Of The Delaware Criminal Law Recodification Project, Paul H. Robinson, Matthew Kussmaul, Ilya Rudyak, Criminal Law Research Group Jul 2017

Report Of The Delaware Criminal Law Recodification Project, Paul H. Robinson, Matthew Kussmaul, Ilya Rudyak, Criminal Law Research Group

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In 1973, during the “first wave” of American criminal law recodification efforts following the publication of the Model Penal Code, Delaware adopted a new criminal code. While it represented a dramatic improvement over the law it replaced, its initial clarity and utility were greatly diminished by subsequent piecemeal legislation. Delaware’s current criminal code is lengthy, inconsistent, and replete with duplicative and outdated offenses that impose disproportional punishments. This process of criminal code deterioration is not unique to Delaware and plagues other U.S. jurisdictions. In 2015, however, stakeholders in Delaware’s criminal justice system initiated a code revision process ...


Bail Reform: New Directions For Pretrial Detention And Release, Megan Stevenson, Sandra G. Mayson Mar 2017

Bail Reform: New Directions For Pretrial Detention And Release, Megan Stevenson, Sandra G. Mayson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Our current pretrial system imposes high costs on both the people who are detained pretrial and the taxpayers who foot the bill. These costs have prompted a surge of bail reform around the country. Reformers seek to reduce pretrial detention rates, as well as racial and socioeconomic disparities in the pretrial system, while simultaneously improving appearance rates and reducing pretrial crime. The current state of pretrial practice suggests that there is ample room for improvement. Bail hearings are often cursory, with no defense counsel present. Money-bail practices lead to high rates of detention even among misdemeanor defendants and those who ...


How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders?, B J. Casey, Richard J. Bonnie, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth S. Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim A. Taylor-Thompson, Anthony D. Wagner Feb 2017

How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders?, B J. Casey, Richard J. Bonnie, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth S. Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim A. Taylor-Thompson, Anthony D. Wagner

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The justice system in the United States has long recognized that juvenile offenders are not the same as adults, and has tried to incorporate those differences into law and policy. But only in recent decades have behavioral scientists and neuroscientists, along with policymakers, looked rigorously at developmental differences, seeking answers to two overarching questions: Are young offenders, purely by virtue of their immaturity, different from older individuals who commit crimes? And, if they are, how should justice policy take this into account?

A growing body of research on adolescent development now confirms that teenagers are indeed inherently different from adults ...


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 ...


Tightening The Ooda Loop: Police Militarization, Race, And Algorithmic Surveillance, Jeffrey L. Vagle Feb 2016

Tightening The Ooda Loop: Police Militarization, Race, And Algorithmic Surveillance, Jeffrey L. Vagle

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article examines the role military automated surveillance and intelligence systems and techniques have supported a self-reinforcing racial bias when used by civilian police departments to enhance predictive policing programs. I will focus on two facets of this problem. First, my research will take an inside-out perspective, studying the role played by advanced military technologies and methods within civilian police departments, and how they have enabled a new focus on deterrence and crime prevention by creating a system of structural surveillance where decision support relies increasingly upon algorithms and automated data analysis tools, and which automates de facto penalization and ...


Tasers Help Police Avoid Fatal Mistakes, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2016

Tasers Help Police Avoid Fatal Mistakes, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This op-ed piece argues that police will inevitably be placed in impossible situations in which they reasonably believe they must shoot to defend themselves but where the shooting in fact turns out to be unnecessary. What can save the police, and the community, from these regular tragedies is a more concerted shift to police use of nonlethal weapons. Taser technology, for example, continues to become increasingly more effective and reliable. While we will always have reasonable mistakes by police in the use of force, it need not be the case that each ends in death or permanent injury. Such a ...


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 ...


Criminal Justice And (A) Catholic Conscience, Leo E. Strine Jr. Jan 2016

Criminal Justice And (A) Catholic Conscience, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This article is one person's reflections on how an important influence on his own sense of moral values -- Jesus Christ -- affects his thinking about his own approach to his role as a public official in a secular society, using the vital topic of criminal justice as a focal point. This article draws several important lessons from Christ's teachings about the concept of the other that are relevant to issues of criminal justice. Using Catholicism as a framework, this article addresses, among other things, capital punishment and denying the opportunity for redemption; the problem of racial disparities in the ...


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 ...


How The Black Lives Matter Movement Can Improve The Justice System, Paul H. Robinson Dec 2015

How The Black Lives Matter Movement Can Improve The Justice System, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This op-ed piece argues that because the criminal justice system's loss of moral credibility contributes to increased criminality and because blacks are disproportionately the victims of crimes, especially violent crimes, the most valuable contribution that the Black Lives Matter movement can make is not to tear down the system’s reputation but rather to propose and support reforms that will build it up, thereby improving its crime-control effectiveness and reducing black victimization.


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 ...


Discounting And Criminals' Implied Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick Jan 2015

Discounting And Criminals' Implied Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

It is commonly assumed that potential offenders are more responsive to increases in the certainty than increases in the severity of punishment. An important implication of this assumption within the Beckerian law enforcement model is that criminals are risk-seeking. This note adds to existing literature by showing that offenders who discount future monetary benefits can be more responsive to the certainty rather than the severity of punishment, even when they are risk averse, and even when their disutility from imprisonment rises proportionally (or more than proportionally) with the length of the sentence.


Empowering Employees To Prevent Fraud In Nonprofit Organizations, John M. Bradley Jan 2015

Empowering Employees To Prevent Fraud In Nonprofit Organizations, John M. Bradley

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article examines the significant problem of fraud within nonprofit organizations and demonstrates that current anti-fraud measures do not adequately reflect the important role employees play in perpetuating or stopping fraudulent activity. Psychological and organizational behavior studies have established the importance of (1) participation and (2) peers in shaping the behavior of individuals within the organizational context. This Article builds on that research and establishes that to successfully combat fraud, organizations must integrate employees into the design, implementation, and enforcement of anti-fraud strategy and procedures. Engaged, empowered employees will be less likely to commit fraud and more likely to dissuade ...