Does Criminal Law Matter? Thoughts on Dean v. United States and Flores-Figueroa v. United States

31 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2013

See all articles by Eric Alan Johnson

Eric Alan Johnson

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

This paper argues that recent decisions by the Supreme Court mark a dramatic, and potentially troubling, departure from the traditional, doctrine-centered approach to criminal statutory interpretation. Traditionally, courts have relied on substantive criminal law background principles in resolving the question what mental state, if any, a particular statutory element requires. In two recent cases, however, the Supreme Court has resolved this mens rea question exclusively on the basis of supposed textual cues. This paper’s primary objective is just to make explicit the interpretive choice behind the Court’s analyses in the two cases. But the paper also will argue that both cases illustrate shortcomings in the Court’s new non-doctrinal, text-centered approach to criminal statutory interpretation.

Keywords: criminal law, statutory interpretation, mens rea

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Eric Alan, Does Criminal Law Matter? Thoughts on Dean v. United States and Flores-Figueroa v. United States (2010). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 8, No. 123, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2306158

Eric Alan Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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