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Posted: January 8th, 2023

Strict Liability

Definition of Strict Liability
According to USLawEssentials (2014), strict liability is defined as criminal laws that don’t require a prosecutor to establish or prove that a defendant acted while in a culpable state of mind. USLawEssentials (2014) gives an example of a situation where the state of New York passes legislation that makes it criminal to sell alcohol knowingly on Sunday mornings. However, a store owner breaks this law by selling alcohol on a Sunday morning. Under such circumstances, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed this crime knowingly and in total disregard of the new legislation. However, if the Jury believes that the defendant was aware of this legislation and committed the crime unknowingly, the defendant is not guilty since he didn’t commit the crime knowingly.
However, in a situation where New York ends up passing legislation that makes it illegal to sell alcohol for individuals below 21 years, it becomes a strict liability crime. A shop owner ends up selling alcohol to a minor below 21 years, thinking that they might be 26 years. Under such circumstances and given that it is considered a strict liability crime, a prosecutor only needs to prove that the shop owner sold the alcohol to a minor without proving that he knowingly did it. In other words, the defendant becomes liable and committed, regardless of whether he knew or didn’t know about his customer’s age.
Morissette versus the United States
Joseph Edward Morissette was a fruit dealer during the summer and a scrap metal dealer during winter. He went hunting on government property, and he noticed scrap metals that appeared to be in a heap that was not well maintained. Although some of these metal scalps appear quite old, he knows that he can still manage to get money from them, given the fact that he is an experienced metal dealer. Morissette collects three truckloads of this metal scalp and sells them for about eighty-four dollars. However, he is charged under 18 USC, which is an offense of converting to his use of another without authority on any government property. Morissette claims that although he was aware that he was taking away the scalp metals, he didn’t know it belonged to anyone and only thought that it had been waste material thrown away to lot.
Additionally, he didn’t know that it was government property. However, the trial court dismissed this claim, arguing that one doesn’t have to know about government ownership for them to become liable for an offense under strict liability. As such, Morissette is sentenced to a two months jail term and a fine worth 200 dollars (Wake Forest Law Curriculum, 2013).
The US Supreme Court rule in the Morrissett Case
The Supreme Court ruled that this conviction can’t stand because the crime as interpreted by the judge in the jury instructions was invalid. The defendant has to know that the property belonged to the government, so what’s the reasoning of the Court. Here why is strict liability disfavored well because the Court says that this is just a traditional fundamental part of the criminal law; it’s based on a universal belief in the freedom of the human will (Wake Forest Law Curriculum, 2013).
The Supreme Court Disfavor Strict Liability Crimes
The Supreme Court links strict liability to a distinctly American idea of individualism. It says that it’s that that the traditional intent requirement of the criminal law promotes individual accountability for things that one can choose, and this links up with the idea of intense individualism that is part of the American background. Nevertheless, the Court’s strict liability can be used in some exceptional areas you could be used in what we call malum prohibitum crimes. Rather than something that everybody knows is wrong, its malum in it is wrong in itself, something that is part of, say, the Ten Commandments or other traditional statements of morality it might be, on the other hand, malum prohibitum that is it’s wrong only because we prohibit it only because we say it’s wrong it’s not kind of a natural moral intuition to know that that this is wrong so for instance, the Court says when you get mass-market societies. You start saying distributing food to lots of people. It is malum prohibitum. It is a crime because we prohibit distributing food mislabeled that may not be one of the Ten Commandments Thou shalt not mislabel food, but accurate labels are critical (Wake Forest Law Curriculum, 2013).
Exceptions the Supreme Court Allows For Strict Liability Crimes
Presumptions against a strict liability crime are grounded on a moral framework that considers an agent’s moral importance and the justifications that underlay states sponsored social (Thomas, 2012). . As such, an exception the Supreme Court allows for strict liability crimes occurs when a court’s decision becomes consistent with presumptions arising from naïve moral frameworks and the presumptions from underlying rationales.
I believe that strict liability crimes should be abolished, and the legal elements of criminal liability are used in all cases. This belief is founded that if the defendant is aware of this legislation and committed the crime unknowingly, the defendant should not be guilty since he didn’t commit the crime knowingly.

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