Corporations and the Presumption of Innocence

Roger A. Shiner

University of British Columbia Okanagan

June 7, 2013

Criminal Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming

Corporate behavior is often regulated through the criminal law by means of reverse onus offenses. Such offenses are alleged to involve violations of the Presumption of Innocence. Such allegations almost always assume natural persons as defendants. The arguments supporting reverse onus offenses are typically instrumental, to do with the importance of the social goals promoted and the ease of proof. The Presumption of Innocence is taken to be an autonomy right of natural persons and so not subject to being sidelined for reasons of law enforcement expediency. Corporations, however, are not natural persons: they have no autonomy right not to be treated as means. It may well be, then, that reverse onus offenses are justified in the case of corporate defendants. I argue that the Presumption is not violated by such offenses in the case of corporate defendants. I develop a broad concept of the criminal justice system as an allocative system, and argue that reverse onus offenses properly allocate the burden of proof for corporations. Specifically, I argue that the normative demand for legal innocence is sufficiently met by the availability of a due diligence defense; that the responsibility of corporations when prohibited harms occur is properly a form of outcome-responsibility; and that taking into account issues of reciprocity, legitimacy and power reverse onus offenses justly allocate the burden of proof in the case of corporate defendants.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: white-collar crime, corporate crime, presumption of innocence, criminal justice, reverse onus offense, group agency, group responsibility, outcome responsibility, legitimacy, power, stigmatization

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Date posted: July 27, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Shiner, Roger A., Corporations and the Presumption of Innocence (June 7, 2013). Criminal Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298775 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2298775

Contact Information

Roger A. Shiner (Contact Author)
University of British Columbia Okanagan ( email )
3333 University Way
234 Arts Building
Kelowna, British Columbia V1V 1V7
250-807-9334 (Phone)
778-477-5664 (Fax)
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