Violation Type:Criminal Indirectionalism

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Violation Type
LCIND

Criminal Indirectionalism


Criminal indirectionalism is the term assigned where a legislature criminalises a certain act not because it is inherently harmful to a person, set of persons or society, but because it is perceived to potentially lead to, or in some way be related to, such acts.

There are several possible legislative motivations for criminal indirectionalism:

  1. Dilution of the legal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt". By criminalising some act which it is perceived may precede, succeed, lead to or be indicative of another criminal act, law enforcement need not prove the commission of that act or intent or attempt thereof beyond reasonable doubt. Rather they need only establish beyond reasonable doubt that some arbitrary act or state occurred. Typically this is substantially easier and is intended to rectify the "problematic" situation where a large number of attempted prosecutions of suspected criminality must be dropped due to a lack of sufficient evidence to meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard.

For a real-life example in the UK, driving a road vehicle under the influence of ethanol is illegal. However, police find a number of cases where they find people under the influence in a vehicle but not driving it. They suspect that the individual in question did move the vehicle while under the influence, but are unable to prove this beyond reasonable doubt.

They therefore obtain a law criminalising the act of being in a vehicle that one owns while under the influence of ethanol, regardless of the fact that this is not inherently dangerous or harmful. The indisputable aim is a material dilution of the legal standard of beyond reasonable doubt, as prosecutors now need only prove that an individual was in their vehicle while under the influence, not that they were driving it. Police will be trusted to use their discretion, and assurances to this effect may be given by lawmakers during the passage of the bill. However, this replaces judicial safeguards with the judgement of arbitrary police officers, defeating the whole point of separation of powers and constituting material damage to the justice system.