Should We Make Crime Impossible?

52 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2012 Last revised: 14 Aug 2012

See all articles by Michael Rich

Michael Rich

Elon University School of Law

Date Written: March 26, 2012


Technology often makes possible what once was impossible, but it also can do the reverse: it can make impossible what once was possible. Specifically, technology has opened the door to 'impossibility measures,' government programs aimed at making it effectively impossible to engage in certain criminal conduct. But even if we can, should we make crime impossible? This question will soon be before legislators and policymakers, and intuitive reactions to potential impossibility measures are confused and contradictory. Yet until now, legal scholars have failed to provide a satisfactory analytical framework for those decision-makers who will be forced to decide whether making criminal conduct impossible is a proper government function. This Essay provides such a framework by examining in detail the possible benefits of impossibility measures and their likely costs. It then proceeds to illuminate this analysis further by applying the framework to an impossibility measure that is close to implementation: the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), a car-based technology aimed at preventing drunk driving.

Keywords: structural controls, DADSS, impossible, crime prevention, drunk driving

Suggested Citation

Rich, Michael, Should We Make Crime Impossible? (March 26, 2012). Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Forthcoming, Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-03, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Rich (Contact Author)

Elon University School of Law ( email )

201 N. Greene Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
United States

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