Responsibility for Reckless Rape
Sometimes persons are legally responsible for reckless behavior that causes criminal harm. This is the case under the newly drafted provisions of the U.S. Model Penal Code (MPC), which holds persons responsible for “simple” rape (nonconsensual sex without proof of force or threats of force), where the offender recklessly disregards the risk that the victim does not consent. In this paper we offer an explanation and corrective critique of the handling of reckless rape cases, with a focus on the U.S. criminal justice system, although our analysis is applicable more broadly. We argue that a wider group of reckless rapists are criminally responsible than is captured by the MPC and claim criminal punishment of reckless rapists must be justified by looking to both moral desert and instrumental aims achieved by criminal punishment. Part of the law’s job is to communicate and enforce society’s expectations regarding unacceptable behavior. In punishing reckless rape, we are not just giving people what they deserve, but also reinforcing and shaping norms regarding sexual behavior.
Copyright (c) 2022 Katrina Sifferd, Anneli Jefferson
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