Criminal Liability – Concept, forms and civil liability

We explain what criminal liability is, its forms and its relationship with legal persons. Also, civil liability.

criminal responsibility
The State administers the punishments involved in criminal responsibility.

What is criminal liability?

In general terms, it is understood by criminal responsibility to which acquired when a crime is committed, that is, when an action punishable by law, typified in any criminal law, is carried out. Those who attempt against any asset protected by the legal system in force in a country, such as life, physical integrity, public order or the assets of others, must face criminal liability administered by the State.

Criminal liability derives its name from the fact that implies the imposition of a penalty, that is, of a punishment proportional to the crime committed. This may imply the deprivation of liberty (that is, going to jail), a fine or pecuniary penalty, or the loss of other rights and freedoms (for example, the carrying of arms or the right to free professional exercise).

There are two forms of criminal responsibility, according to the nature of the crime committed:

  • Common criminal liability, when the crime committed can be committed by any ordinary individual, that is, when it comes to common crimes, such as robbery, sexual abuse or homicide.
  • Special criminal liability, when the crime committed can be committed only by the subject in question, since it requires some type of position or special power, such as being a public official, as is the case of the embezzlement of public funds (embezzlement) or the prevarication.

Criminal liability and civil liability

Unlike criminal or criminal liability Civil liability consists of the obligation to compensate someone for a wrong committed against them, generally through the payment of compensation established by the courts.

This type of responsibility can be:

  • Contractual: When between the plaintiff and the defendant there is a contract that has been broken or breached.
  • Non contractual: When plaintiff and defendant have no prior relationship. At the same time, it is distinguished if the offense committed was not intentional, that is, unintentional, accidental, or if it was criminal, that is, corresponding to the voluntary and conscious commission of a crime, which would lead us to the premises of responsibility. penal.

Logically, the sanctions between one form of responsibility and another are very different, and their capacities and forms of prescription are also different. For example, minor citizens do not have any criminal responsibility, although they do have civil responsibility.

In addition, civil liability has the task of repairing damage to the victim, while criminal liability pursues the objective of punishing a guilty person. Thus, the first is paid to the injured person, while the second is paid to the State.

Penal responsibility of juridical persons

One of the most common controversies in the history of modern law is that which refers to the possibility of imputing criminal responsibility to a legal person, that is, to a company, institution or organization, instead of to a natural individual (a person).

The problem is that Legal persons do not have a subjectivity that can be subjected to trial, nor do they have their own intentions, but depend on the people who are in charge of them. This also conflicts with fundamental principles of criminal law, such as the personality of the penalties (that is, that each person responds for the crime committed by their own person and not by that of others).

However, the tendency of contemporary Western law is to exceed the maxim of Roman law societas delinquere non potest (“Societies cannot commit crimes”), especially in Anglo-Saxon nations.

A) Yes, it would be possible to attribute criminal penalties to societies, a perspective that has gained momentum since the 19th century, especially when it comes to business crime. Although the legal system that is applied for the punishment of business crimes can vary enormously depending on the country and the legislation.