Mistake of Law and Culpability

Criminal Law and Philosophy 4 (2):135-159 (2010)
When does a defendant not deserve punishment because he is unaware that his conduct breaches a penal statute? Retributivists must radically rethink their answer to this question to do justice to our moral intuitions. I suggest that modest progress on this topic can be made by modeling our approach to ignorance of law on our familiar approach to ignorance of fact. We need to distinguish different levels of culpability in given mistakes and to differentiate what such mistakes may be about. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this approach with special attention to how to contrast offenses from defenses. The alternative I tend to favor probably should not be implemented in existing penal codes. As a result, we are likely to remain dissatisfied with the decisions made by our criminal justice system about the exculpatory effect of ignorance of law.
Keywords Culpability  Retributivism  Desert  Ignorance of law  Consequentialism  Desert  Blame  Morality  Offenses and defenses
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DOI 10.1007/s11572-010-9092-7
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References found in this work BETA
Keith DeRose (1992). Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.
Neil Levy (2007). The Responsibility of the Psychopath Revisited. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (2):pp. 129-138.
Gideon Rosen (2002). Culpability and Ignorance. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):61–84.
Gideon Rosen (2004). Skepticism About Moral Responsibility. Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):295–313.

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Larry Alexander (2013). You Got What You Deserved. Criminal Law and Philosophy 7 (2):309-319.

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