Document Type


Publication Date



H. L. A. Hart argues that strict criminal liability often undermines the moral condemnation associated with punishment and therefore its capacity for deterrence. Hart explains that insofar as legal punishment expresses the "odium, if not the hostility" of a community towards those who break its laws strict liability forces us to either condemn those who are not deserving of condemnation or to negate the moral condemnation of the law in general. One choice is immoral and the other reduces the effectiveness of a significant deterrent and is therefore counterproductive. Either way, the consequences of strict liability are undesirable. In this paper, I will defend Hart's thesis against its objectors. I will also propose and defend an original reason to believe Hart's thesis. I will build my case around the crime of statutory rape, although discussion of principles and objections will involve other crimes.


Strict Criminal Liability: Limiting the State's Power to Condemn. 1 Dartmouth C. Undergraduate J.L. 57 (2003)