The Model Penal Code's Conceptual Error on the Nature of Proximate Cause, and How to Fix it
Criminal Law Bulletin, V. 51, P. 131, 2015
16 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2014 Last revised: 24 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2015
The Model Penal Code reconceptualized proximate cause to see it as part of the offense culpability requirements rather than as, in the traditional view, a minimum requirement for the strength of the connection between the actor's conduct and the prohibited result. That conceptual error, rare in the well-thought-out Model Code, invites misinterpretation and misapplication of the proximate cause provision, and can produce improper liability results. The failure is all the more unfortunate because the Model Code drafters did have an important improvement to offer in dealing with the challenging issue of proximate cause. Their jettison of fixed detailed rules in favor of a useful general standard – "not too remote or accidental in its occurrence to have a [just] bearing on the actor's liability or on the gravity of his offense" – could have significantly simplified and improved proximate cause analysis, but their conceptual error created needless problems that helped lead most states to reject the Model Code provision.
Keywords: Criminal law, Model Penal Code, statute, proximate cause, remoteness of causation, culpability, legal cause, too remote or accidental, factual cause
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