Evidentiary Graded Punishment: A New Look at Criminal Liability for Failing to Report Criminal Activity
Criminal Law and Philosophy, (Forthcoming)
18 Pages Posted: 22 May 2023
Date Written: May 9, 2023
This Article presents a theory whereby criminal punishments are routinely distributed in proportion to the weight of the evidence mounted against the defendant. According to this theory, the law relaxes the stringent decision threshold in criminal trials—beyond a reasonable doubt—by creating easy-to-prove evidentiary offenses. These offenses, in turn, are associated with less severe sanctions, thus creating a de-facto proportional liability regime.
Against that backdrop, the Article examines the legal duty to report criminal activity to the authorities. As the analysis shows, while legal scholars analyzing such duties have focused on the paradigmatic case in which an innocent bystander, friend or family member is unwittingly exposed to information about a crime, in practice these duties are rarely used in such cases. Rather, reporting duties are used to prosecute suspected accomplices whose involvement in the commission of the actual crime is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, offenses imposing a reporting duty on criminal activity turn out to be part of the general framework of accomplice liability, and are used to apply less severe sanctions in cases of evidentiary uncertainty.
Keywords: proxy crimes, beyond reasonable doubt, reporting duties, criminal law
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