Crime, Responsibility, Culpability, and Wrongdoing
AP Simester, Fundamentals of Criminal Law: Responsibility, Culpability, and Wrongdoing (Oxford University Press, 2021)
15 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021
Date Written: February 4, 2021
This is a pre-print of chapter one from AP Simester, Fundamentals of Criminal Law: Responsibility, Culpability, and Wrongdoing (Oxford University Press, 2021).
This chapter provides a theoretical overview of criminal law, claiming that it has multiple functions. Among other things, the criminal law operates to prevent certain kinds of wrongs, and to punish them when they occur. Those functions are compatible; but they are often thought to be in tension. Whether preventive, interrogative, or punitive, all parts of the criminal justice system need justification. The chapter then briefly introduces at five foundational principles for criminal law: culpability, legitimate enactment, moral responsibility, wrongdoing, and ascriptive responsibility. Culpability is served by moral responsibility, and it is entwined with wrongdoing: but the latter principles, and the doctrines they govern, are independently significant. The principle of ascriptive responsibility, on the other hand, is related more closely to wrongdoing and legitimate enactment than to culpability per se. Its primary function is to moderate the state’s generic prohibition by identifying those defendants who fall within its scope. As such, it is primarily a criminalization principle.
Keywords: criminal law, culpability, moral responsibility, wrongdoing, ascriptive responsibility, criminalization
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation