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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Trouble With Time Served, Kimberly Ferzan Jul 2023

The Trouble With Time Served, Kimberly Ferzan

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Every jurisdiction in the United States gives criminal defendants “credit” against their sentence for the time they spend detained pretrial. In a world of mass incarceration and overcriminalization that disproportionately impacts people of color, this practice appears to be a welcome mechanism for mercy and justice. In fact, however, crediting detainees for time served is perverse. It harms the innocent. A defendant who is found not guilty, or whose case is dismissed, gets nothing. Crediting time served also allows the state to avoid internalizing the full costs of pretrial detention, thereby making overinclusive detention standards less expensive. Finally, crediting time …


Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson

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It is easy to understand the apparent appeal of strict liability to policymakers and legal reformers seeking to reduce crime: if the criminal law can do away with its traditional culpability requirement, it can increase the likelihood of conviction and punishment of those who engage in prohibited conduct or bring about prohibited harm or evil. And such an increase in punishment rate can enhance the crime-control effectiveness of a system built upon general deterrence or incapacitation of the dangerous. Similar arguments support the use of criminal liability for regulatory offenses. Greater punishment rates suggest greater compliance.

But this analysis fails …


Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2017

Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Of the many diagnoses of American criminal justice’s ills, few focus on externalities. Yet American criminal justice systematically overpunishes in large part because few mechanisms exist to force consideration of the full social costs of criminal justice interventions. Actors often lack good information or incentives to minimize the harms they impose. Part of the problem is structural: criminal justice is fragmented vertically among governments, horizontally among agencies, and individually among self-interested actors. Part is a matter of focus: doctrinally and pragmatically, actors overwhelmingly view each case as an isolated, short-term transaction to the exclusion of broader, long-term, and aggregate effects. …


Punishment, Liberalism, And Public Reason, Chad Flanders Jan 2017

Punishment, Liberalism, And Public Reason, Chad Flanders

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The article argues for a conception of the justification of punishment that is compatible with a modern, politically liberal regime. Section I deals with what some have thought are the obvious social interests society has in punishing criminals, and tries to develop those possible interests somewhat sympathetically. Section II suggests that many of those reasons are not good ones if punishment is regarded (as it should be) from the perspective of political philosophy. Social responses to bad things happening to people cannot be grounded in controversial metaphysical views about what is good for people or what people deserve, but many …


The Legal Limits Of “Yes Means Yes”, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2016

The Legal Limits Of “Yes Means Yes”, Paul H. Robinson

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This op-ed piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that the affirmative consent rule of "yes means yes" is a useful standard that can help educate and ideally change norms regarding consent to sexual intercourse. But that goal can best be achieved by using “yes means yes” as an ex ante announcement of the society's desired rule of conduct. That standard only becomes problematic when used as the ex post principle of adjudication for allegations of rape. Indeed, those most interested in changing existing norms ought to be the persons most in support of distinguishing these two importantly different …


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

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

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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 …


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

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

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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.


"Not Just A Common Criminal": The Case For Sentencing Mitigation Videos, Regina Austin Apr 2014

"Not Just A Common Criminal": The Case For Sentencing Mitigation Videos, Regina Austin

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Sentencing mitigation or sentencing videos are a form of visual legal advocacy that is produced on behalf of defendants for use in the sentencing phases of criminal cases (from charging to clemency). The videos are typically short (5 to 10 minutes or so) nonfiction films that explore a defendant’s background, character, and family situation with the aim of raising factual and moral issues that support the argument for a shorter or more lenient sentence. Very few examples of mitigation videos are in the public domain and available for viewing. This article provides a complete analysis of the constituent elements of …


Law And Neuroscience: Recommendations Submitted To The President's Bioethics Commission, Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner, Gideon Yaffe Jan 2014

Law And Neuroscience: Recommendations Submitted To The President's Bioethics Commission, Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner, Gideon Yaffe

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President Obama charged the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to identify a set of core ethical standards in the neuroscience domain, including the appropriate use of neuroscience in the criminal-justice system. The Commission, in turn, called for comments and recommendations. The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience submitted a consensus statement, published here, containing 16 specific recommendations. These are organized within three main themes: 1) what steps should be taken to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system to make sound decisions regarding the admissibility and weight of neuroscientific evidence?; 2) to what extent …


Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Dec 2013

Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Since the turn of the century, the Supreme Court has begun to regulate non-capital sentencing under the Sixth Amendment in the Apprendi line of cases (requiring jury findings of fact to justify sentence enhancements) as well as under the Eighth Amendment in the Miller and Graham line of cases (forbidding mandatory life imprisonment for juvenile defendants). Though both lines of authority sound in individual rights, in fact they are fundamentally about the structures of criminal justice. These two seemingly disparate lines of doctrine respond to structural imbalances in non-capital sentencing by promoting morally appropriate punishment judgments that are based on …


Abolition Of The Insanity Defense Violates Due Process, Stephen J. Morse, Richard J. Bonnie Jan 2013

Abolition Of The Insanity Defense Violates Due Process, Stephen J. Morse, Richard J. Bonnie

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This article, which is based on and expands on an amicus brief the authors submitted to the United States Supreme Court, first provides the moral argument in favor of the insanity defense. It considers and rejects the most important moral counterargument and suggests that jurisdictions have considerable leeway in deciding what test best meets their legal and moral policies. The article then discusses why the two primary alternatives to the insanity defense, the negation of mens rea and considering mental disorder at sentencing, are insufficient to achieve the goal of responding justly to severely mentally disordered offenders. The last section …


The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas Jan 2011

The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas

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This short essay responds to Josh Bowers’ article Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute. While most scholars focus on the most visible injustices in the most serious cases, Bowers rightly notes that this sliver of serious felonies is dwarfed by the mountain of minor, low-visibility misdemeanors and violations. Prosecutors are reasonably good at classifying crimes based on legal guilt and administrative criteria, but are far worse at weighing all the particulars and exercising equitable discretion. Our consistent faith in prosecutors’ expertise, Bowers argues, is not only misguided but backwards; we should value outsiders’ fresh …


Beyond Experience: Getting Retributive Justice Right, Dan Markel, Chad Flanders, David C. Gray Jan 2011

Beyond Experience: Getting Retributive Justice Right, Dan Markel, Chad Flanders, David C. Gray

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How central should hedonic adaptation be to the establishment of sentencing policy?

In earlier work, Professors Bronsteen, Buccafusco, and Masur (BBM) drew some normative significance from the psychological studies of adaptability for punishment policy. In particular, they argued that retributivists and utilitarians alike are obliged on pain of inconsistency to take account of the fact that most prisoners, most of the time, adapt to imprisonment in fairly short order, and therefore suffer much less than most of us would expect. They also argued that ex-prisoners don't adapt well upon re-entry to society and that social planners should consider their post-release …


Shame And The Meanings Of Punishment, Chad Flanders Jan 2006

Shame And The Meanings Of Punishment, Chad Flanders

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Debates over shaming punishments have raged over the past few years, with people like Dan Kahan and Eric Posner for them, while James Whitman and Martha Nussbaum have entered the fray strongly against them. This Essay argues that both sides in the shaming punishment debate have it only party right. Those who favor shaming sanctions are correct that we should (all else being equal) favor those punishments which are expressive rather than those that involve some form of hard treatment. And those who reject shaming sanctions are correct that such sanctions involve forms of humiliation and denials of dignity that …


An Honest Approach To Plea Bargaining, Steven P. Grossman Jul 2005

An Honest Approach To Plea Bargaining, Steven P. Grossman

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In this Article, the author argues that differential sentencing of criminal defendants who plead guilty and those who go to trial is, primarily, a punishment for the defendant exercising the right to trial. The proposed solution requires an analysis of the differential sentencing motivation in light of the benefit to society and the drawbacks inherent in the plea bargaining system.


Legality And Discretion In The Distribution Of Criminal Sanctions, Paul H. Robinson Jan 1988

Legality And Discretion In The Distribution Of Criminal Sanctions, Paul H. Robinson

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The judicial system now responds to criminal conduct in two rather divergent steps. A judge or jury first determines if a defendant should be held liable for a criminal offense. If so, then the judge or jury goes on to choose a penalty. Precise rules, designed to ensure fairness and predictability, govern the first stage, liability assignment. In the second stage, sentencing, however, judges and juries exercise broad discretion in meting out sanctions. In this Article, Professor Robinson argues that both liability assignment and sentencing are part of a single process of punishing criminal behavior and should be made more …


Hybrid Principles For The Distribution Of Criminal Sanctions, Paul H. Robinson Jan 1987

Hybrid Principles For The Distribution Of Criminal Sanctions, Paul H. Robinson

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Most criminal codes, and most criminal law courses, begin with the 'familiar litany' of the purposes of criminal law sanctions - just punishment, deterrence, incapacitation of the dangerous, and rehabilitation. We train and direct our lawyers, judges, and legislators to use these purposes as guiding principles for the distribution of criminal sanctions. The purposes are thus to guide both the drafting and interpretation of criminal statutes and the imposition of criminal sentences in individual cases. The purposes frequently conflict, however, as part I will demonstrate. Conflicts arise because each purpose requires consideration of different criteria; in some cases, a particular …


Element Analysis In Defining Criminal Liability: The Model Penal Code And Beyond, Paul H. Robinson, Jane A. Grall Jan 1983

Element Analysis In Defining Criminal Liability: The Model Penal Code And Beyond, Paul H. Robinson, Jane A. Grall

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The pursuit of fairness and effectiveness has inspired and guided criminal code reformers of the past two decades. Because penal law protects the most important societal interests and authorizes the most serious sanctions the government may impose - the stigma of conviction, imprisonment, and even death - a criminal code, more than any other body of law, should be rational, clear, and internally consistent. Only a precise, principled code that sufficiently defines forbidden conduct can achieve its goals of condemnation and deterrence. Such a code gives citizens fair warning of what will constitute a crime, limits governmental discretion in determining …