Accomplices: A Theory of Joint Intention
58 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017 Last revised: 12 Jun 2018
Date Written: February 14, 2017
An accomplice is held criminally liable for the acts of another. Yet, the circumstances under which this liability should apply remain unclear owing to an inconsistent and under-articulated set of doctrines, some departing dramatically from foundational commitments of criminal law. We propose a framework that grounds this area of law in a considered account of joint intention, which preserves the central roles of both mens rea and individual intention in the assignment of criminal liability. This approach provides a resolution to long-standing confusions about the meaning and consequentialness of actions taken by an accomplice and offers a unified, coherent doctrine to replace the series of disparate and ad hoc conclusions in the case law. A key novel concept in our approach is standing in reserve, which extends the coverage of a joint intention beyond the immediate participants in the actus reus that helps define a crime. The concepts of standing in reserve and joint intention supply a systematic way of addressing challenging cases such as felony murder, organized crime, state-sponsored violence, and terrorist sleeper cells.
Keywords: mens rea, intention, criminal law, conspiracy, accomplice liability, complicity
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