Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2201065
 


 



The Poverty Defense


Michele E. Gilman


University of Baltimore - School of Law

January 15, 2013

University of Richmond Law Review, Vol. 47, p. 495, 2013
University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-02

Abstract:     
Poverty is correlated with crime, but it is widely assumed that it should not be a defense. In the 1970s, Judge David Bazelon challenged this assumption, proposing a rotten social background defense, that is, how growing up under circumstances of severe deprivation can subsequently impact a criminal defendant's mental state and actions. Relatedly, other theorists have posited that poverty should be a defense to crime based on poverty's coercive aspects or because society forfeits its right to condemn when it tolerates significant economic inequality. Critics counter that a poverty defense should not be adopted because it is not only inconsistent with American norms of individual responsibility, but also practically impossible. This vigorous debate has been deemed an ivory tower exercise. Yet scholars have entirely overlooked that a poverty defense is utilized in thousands of cases a year. In both civil and criminal child neglect cases, various states excuse conduct that would otherwise be neglect on account of a parent's poverty. In short, a poverty defense is not hypothetical. Courts' interpretations of the poverty defense in child neglect cases reflect the various theoretical strands posited by scholars. The case law reveals that a poverty defense is workable, but that its potential to help poor defendants is limited unless courts have a rich, multi-dimensional understanding of the causes and effects of poverty. This article explains how the poverty defense works in practice in child welfare cases, and can guide scholars, and more importantly, lawmakers and courts, in considering whether to extend a poverty defense to other areas of the law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 60

Keywords: child welfare, child neglect, poverty, social justice, criminal defense

JEL Classification: I30, I31, I32, I38, K14, K41

Accepted Paper Series


Download This Paper

Date posted: January 16, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Gilman, Michele E., The Poverty Defense (January 15, 2013). University of Richmond Law Review, Vol. 47, p. 495, 2013; University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-02. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2201065

Contact Information

Michele E. Gilman (Contact Author)
University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )
1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 860
Downloads: 113
Download Rank: 143,315

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.312 seconds