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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77557 Find in a Library
Title: Criminal Liability for Life-Endangering Corporate Conduct
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:72  Issue:2  Dated:(Summer 1981)  Pages:400-433
Author(s): W A Spurgeon; T P Fagan
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 34
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The simultaneous beneficial and detrimental aspects of corporate conduct present lawmakers with the challenge of curtailing socially harmful activity without stifling the industrial process, a challenge partially met by S. 1722, (1979).
Abstract: Some corporate conduct presents a risk of harm disproportionate to the benefit of that conduct. Such activity is morally blameworthy and within the ambit of criminal law. An endangerment provision, such as Section 1617 of the 1979 Act, which embodies a balancing of the risk and benefit of a particular activity, would properly punish and deter such blameworthy acts. However, considering that conduct may simultaneously benefit many sectors of society and that assigning weight to each factor in the balance may be difficult, the determination of when conduct manifests an unjustified disregard for human life presents no easy task for corporations, prosecutors, and judges. When society can agree that a particular activity is socially harmful, criminal punishment serves to deter actors from engaging in further similar conduct. In the corporate context, criminal sanctions will have an actual deterrent effect if judges are empowered to impose fines proportionate to the actual damage a corporation causes and to its ability to pay. While it is not without difficulty, the endangerment offense represents a laudable attempt to deal with the problem of socially harmful conduct. Such an offense, specifying a broader range of regulatory offenses as part of its prohibitions, should be included in future efforts to reform the Federal criminal law. Footnotes are included. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Corporate criminal liability; Crime seriousness measures; Law reform; Laws and Statutes; Legislation; Penalty severity rating; White collar crime
Note: Presented at the Symposium on the Policies and Legal Theories Underlying the Proposed Federal Criminal Code.
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