Proxy Crimes

39 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2021 Last revised: 5 Dec 2023

See all articles by Piotr Bystranowski

Piotr Bystranowski

Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics; Jagiellonian University

Murat C. Mungan

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: April 18, 2021


‘Proxy crimes’ is a phrase loosely used to refer to conduct which is punished only as a means to target another, harmful, conduct. Many criminal law scholars find the criminalization of this type of conduct unjustifiable from a retributivist perspective, whereas others note that proxy criminalization can contribute to mass incarceration and overcriminalization. Given the importance of these problems, a systematic analysis of proxy crimes, currently absent in the criminal law literature, is needed.

In this article, we provide a comprehensive analysis of proxy crimes by (i) surveying the existing literature and identifying gaps in prior analyses, (ii) proposing a simple yet useful definition of proxy crimes, (iii) identifying three specific categories of proxy crimes, and (iv) conducting an economic analysis of proxy criminalization which allows us to identify conditions under which proxy criminalization is socially (un)desirable. Finally, in light of our analysis, we present and discuss a specific affirmative defense that can be made available to defendants charged with a proxy crime. We explain how legislators can better balance the social benefits and detriments from proxy criminalization through these types of affirmative defenses.

Suggested Citation

Bystranowski, Piotr and Mungan, Murat C., Proxy Crimes (April 18, 2021). American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 59, pp. 1-38, 2022, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 21-10, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 23-70, Available at SSRN: or

Piotr Bystranowski

Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics; Jagiellonian University ( email )

Collegium Novum
ul. Gołębia 24
Kraków, 31-007
31-007 (Fax)

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

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