The main argument of this article is that only a clear conception of the purpose of punishment can orient the debate about the positioning of the fault requirement and strict liability doctrine in criminal law. A categorization of the varieties of strict liability offenses, as well as an adequate model for normatively appraising the legitimacy of these deviations from the principle of culpability, should be based on a systematic analysis of criminal law’s role and function in society. As is argued, the original purpose of criminal law consists in the stabilization of norms by means of punishment. Taking up that finding, this work provides a detailed view of the distinct mechanism of placing blame, allowing for the presentation of a clear scheme for categorizing and appraising the variety of strict liability offenses. It is stated that offenses substantively deviating from the standard mechanism of placing blame can potentially result in over-punishment, which is dysfunctional and not justifiable. Properly placing blame is essential for the appropriate fulfillment of criminal law’s purpose in society. Therefore, the claim of the principle of culpability and critiques of strict liability doctrine find their basis not only in considerations of fairness, but also social necessity. By presenting a systematic categorization of strict liability offenses, this research offers a clear approach to a frequently discussed doctrine and establishes new arguments against its legitimacy.
Strict Liability and the Purpose of Punishment
Monika Simmler studied law at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and completed her PhD in 2017. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of St. Gallen. During her PhD studies, she spent a half year each as a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York (USA), the University of Oxford (UK), and the University of Vienna (Austria).
This article rests mainly on findings from the author’s doctoral thesis submitted at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) in 2017 (in German): Normstabilisierung und Schuldvorwurf: Eine Analyse der Funktion und Variabilität strafrechtlicher Schuld am Beispiel der Strict Liability [Placing Blame and the Stabilization of Norms: An Analysis of the Function and Variability of Criminal Culpability in Light of the Doctrine of Strice Liability] (2018). A summary of key findings in English can also be found in Simmler, The Importance of Placing Blame: Criminal Law and the Stabilization of Norms, 31 Crim. L.F. 147 (2020).
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Monika Simmler; Strict Liability and the Purpose of Punishment. New Criminal Law Review 27 November 2020; 23 (4): 516–564. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nclr.2020.23.4.516
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