Vicarious Liability In Criminal Law

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The liability of corporations under federal criminal law is based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, or vicarious liability, which is a form of strict liability.
1. The Duality of Corporate and Individual Criminal Liability
Statutes that expose a corporation to criminal liability do not absolve the officers, employees, or agents whose violations lead to the corporation’s plight. Courts have noted that, “No intent to exculpate a corporate officer who violates the law is to be imputed to Congress without clear compulsion.”
2. Direct Responsibility
A corporation may be liable even if there is no single employee entirely at fault. By recognizing that the acts of a corporation are "simply the acts of all of its employees operating within the
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In the criminal context, vicarious liability assigns guilt, or criminal liability, to a person for wrongful acts committed by someone else. This includes aiding and abetting criminal activities.
There are three theories of vicarious liability in the criminal law context:
i. Conspiracy is the agreement of two or more persons to commit some other federal crime. Conspiracy also presents one of the three situations in which corporate officials and employees may face criminal liability under federal law even though they themselves did not commit, and perhaps did not even know of, the misconduct of other officers or employees. Thus, though an officer or employee has no direct hand in the matter, he is liable for foreseeable offenses committed by one of his co-conspirators in furtherance of their common scheme.
The second situation occurs when the official or employee either instructs another to commit a federal offense or aids and abets another in the commission of a federal offense, or takes some action after the fact to conceal the commission of a federal offense by another. Like conspiracy, liability for procuring or aiding and abetting the offense of another focuses on conduct committed before the commission of the underlying substantive
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(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal. ii. Accomplice Liability: an accomplice is someone who aids, abets, counsels, or in any way encourages another (the "principal") to commit a crime. An accomplice may be vicariously liable for crimes he "aided and abetted" as well as other foreseeable crimes that the principal commits.
4. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Such activity may include illegal gambling, bribery, kidnapping, murder, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement, drug trafficking, slavery, and a host of other unsavory business

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