Social Expectations in the Criminal Law: The 'Reasonable Person' in a Comparative Perspective
New Criminal Law Review 11 (2008), 1-32
32 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2012
Date Written: May 25, 2007
The “reasonable person” plays an important role in English and American criminal law, but not in German criminal law. The comparative view yields a number of differences (for example, with respect to negligent crimes, errors about justifying circumstances, and excuses like duress). Besides analyzing such differences, the article examines the legitimate role of social expectations in criminal law (which stand behind references to the “reasonable person”) beyond the details of different legal systems. It concludes that one must distinguish judgments about wrongdoing from judgments about personal responsibility. The former are shaped by social expectations, while personal responsibility needs to be evaluated with a view to the individual offender.
Keywords: criminal law, comparative law, comparative criminal law, negligence, reasonable person, social expectations
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