Motive’s Role in Criminal Punishment – Article by Carissa Byrne Hessick

From Volume 80, Number 1 (November 2006)
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Motive plays an important role in criminal law. It is necessary to prove liability for some offenses; it is a key component of several defenses; and it has been a traditional consideration at sentencing. Motive’s role in criminal punishment has grown through the adoption of hate crime sentencing enhancements and the rise of substantive sentencing law. And motive has an important role in punishment theory, as it reinforces the centrality of shared moral judgments, which are indispensable to any system of criminal law. Yet despite motive’s increasing importance in criminal law, its treatment is inconsistent and incomplete. This Article proposes an expanded role for motive in criminal punishment, in which a defendant’s motive for committing any crime may result in a sentencing increase or decrease. The proposed sentencing system not only will result in a greater correlation between a defendant’s punishment and her individual blameworthiness, but also will increase sentencing uniformity, because it clarifies the aggravating and mitigating nature of various motives ex ante.


 

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