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Taxpayers as Victims: Taxpayer Harm & Criminalization

58 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2012 Last revised: 19 Mar 2013

Brenner M. Fissell

Georgetown Law

Date Written: 2013


Criminal statutes are least objectionable when they are justified by the notion that the conduct being prohibited is harmful to others. Over the past few decades, a new argument has arisen that makes this very easy to do. This argument appeals to the reality that often when one’s conduct causes or risks physical injury to one’s self, governmental services (e.g. rescue, police, healthcare) will be provided, and that the cost of these services is an unfair burden imposed upon taxpayers. This argument understands the taxpayers to be victims, and the self-harming conduct to therefore be harmful to others, and justifiably criminalized. This Article unearths this so far un-assessed argument from various legal sources, and analyzes it with the tools of criminal law theory to see whether or not it can hold water. Ultimately, the conclusion is “no,” and an alternative solution is advanced: civil liability.

Suggested Citation

Fissell, Brenner M., Taxpayers as Victims: Taxpayer Harm & Criminalization (2013). 7 NYU Journal of Law & Liberty 126. Available at SSRN:

Brenner Fissell (Contact Author)

Georgetown Law ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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