Strict Liability Abolition

New York University Law Review

This Article reinvigorates the case for abolishing strict liability in the criminal law. Undertaking an intellectual history of mens rea policy, I spotlight two fundamental assumptions that have fueled strict liability’s historic rise and current deprioritization in this time of criminal justice reform. One assumption is that eliminating culpable mental states from criminal statutes is an effective means of reducing crime rates. The other is that adding culpable mental states to criminal statutes is an ineffective means of lowering imprisonment rates or promoting racial justice. This Article argues that both of these assumptions are wrong.

A4J Senior Research Scholar Michael Serota‘s paper, Strict Liability Abolition, was published in the New York University Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 1, 2023.