Ultima Ratio as Caveat Dominus: Legal Principles, Police Maxims, and the Critical Analysis of Law

23 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2013  

Markus D. Dubber

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Toronto - Centre for Ethics

Date Written: July 3, 2013

Abstract

A comparative and historical analysis of the so-called ultima ratio principle reveals that, despite its Latinate veneer, it is neither ancient nor universal, but a recent addition to the German criminal law canon. Upon further inquiry, ultima ratio also turns out to be ill-defined, undermotivated, and toothless, a fundamental legal principle and distinctive feature of criminal law honored in its ubiquitous breach. In the end, the iron legal principle of ultima ratio may appear more like the flexible police maxim of caveat dominus. Its frequent invocation suggests the need to reconceive legal science as a critical analysis of law in general, and of law's supposed principles in particular.

Keywords: ultima ratio, last resort, criminal law, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Dubber, Markus D., Ultima Ratio as Caveat Dominus: Legal Principles, Police Maxims, and the Critical Analysis of Law (July 3, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2289479 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2289479

Markus D. Dubber (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/full-time-faculty/markus-dubber

University of Toronto - Centre for Ethics ( email )

6 Hoskin Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1H8
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://ethics.utoronto.ca

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