Tort Concepts in Traffic Crimes
18 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 18, 2016
Legal scholars have long understood tort and criminal law as parallel mechanisms for sanctioning private behavior. Most have also sought to keep them separate. In the context of traffic crime, however, the line between tort and criminal law is blurring, as criminal law takes on significant features of tort doctrine. This Comment, using New York as a case study, shows that the border between tort and crime has disintegrated distinctively and dramatically in the traffic-crash context. All three branches of New York government have imported tort concepts into traffic crimes, thus redefining basic criminal-law doctrines throughout the criminal code — reaching even the law of homicide. This Comment also suggests that the consistent application of tort frameworks to traffic crimes shows a shared, if unspoken, consensus that traffic crashes should be understood in the register of tort.
Keywords: traffic, automobiles, vehicles, tort, criminal law, contributory negligence, strict liability, mens rea, criminal negligence, Right of Way law, New York
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