Honor Among Thieves: Enforcing Criminal Contracts

31 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2022

See all articles by Daniel Pi

Daniel Pi

University of Maine - School of Law

Date Written: November 3, 2022


Contracts involving promises to commit criminal acts are ordinarily unenforceable. Yet nonenforcement does not fully deter incentives to form criminal agreements. This Article demonstrates that partial enforcement can generate greater deterrence incentives by disrupting the trust relationship between parties to a criminal agreement, effecting superior deterrence. Specifically, by allowing promisors and denying promisees the right to sue, the law can effect a no-lose proposition for the former, and a no-win proposition for the latter. Since mutual assent requires mutuality, and fewer promisees will assent under asymmetric enforcement, partial enforcement achieves better deterrence than total nonenforcement.

Keywords: illegal contract, criminal contract, conspiracy, nullity

JEL Classification: C71, K12, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Pi, Daniel, Honor Among Thieves: Enforcing Criminal Contracts (November 3, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4267212 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4267212

Daniel Pi (Contact Author)

University of Maine - School of Law ( email )

246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States

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