Vicarious Liability in the Criminal Context

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Defendants in vicarious liability may cause another defendant to become part of the proceedings when the act of vicarious liability transfers responsibility of the crime to that individual. These issues are common amongst those working for and with others in a company, and these situations are usually part of a corporate liability case.

When the legal system started evolving after decades of use throughout the world, it was not originally possible to sue a corporation due to the ownership of these entities by the government. However, because a company is privately owned by an individual or a group, the actions of the business may harm individuals and lead to severe injury or death. With these situations causing such complications, it is possible to litigate against a single entity. Criminal responsibility is held against the corporation when harm comes to the economy or a person. When the criminal actions of the owner or an employee transfer ownership of responsibility to the company as a whole, vicarious liability occurs.

Corporate Liability in Action

Through the actions of a single person, the responsibility of the criminal activity may transfer to the company. Then, the wronged individual could sue the corporation instead of the employee. However, because corporations are often large with extensive funding, these circumstances end in defeat when no negotiations are possible. However, law enforcement may hold the company and an employee or manager accountable legally for these actions together and separately. However, vicarious liability is generally only in effect when the employee or agent is part of the company. After he or she leaves, the scope of vicarious liability expires.

Criminal punishments for company involvement is usually a fine of some sort. Criminal prosecution may occur when there is an obstruction of justice. This happens if an employee of the company shreds documents that may help in an investigation into another matter or against an accused crime the company may have taken part in at some point. While the person may act within the scope of his or her employment, the liability is vicarious and will depend greatly on the relationship between the business and worker within it. However, this is different than accomplice liability where the individual must be complicit in the act of criminal activities.

Corporate Liability and Vicarious Liability

Usually, the prosecuting lawyer is not interested in seeking vicarious liability penalties against a person. The intent is to go after the company that commits illegal acts. Vicarious liability transfers from one person or company to another, and criminal law is more interested in seeking justice against those responsible for their own actions. In the event of accomplice liability, the employee is aware of his or her criminal activity and is accountable for these actions even if supported by the company. The primary point is to ensure that the actual criminal is put to trial for his or her own intentional acts of illegal activity.

Other vicarious liability occurs when a parent is held responsible for his or her child’s criminal actions. This occurs in some states where the youth used weapons, committed theft or vandalized property. Often the young person used weapons or items belonging to the parent such as consuming drugs or pulling out a gun. Contributing to the delinquency of the minor is how the parent may pay for these actions. This is more important as youth crime increases among students at school and those in public. In these cases, a lawyer is usually necessary for any type of defense against the criminal charges.

Important Details in Vicarious Liability

When someone is part of accomplice liability, he or she is complicit with the true perpetrator. Criminal responsibility may impose charges against the defendant with the relationship with the primary person committing the crime. Additionally, corporations may face criminal charges due to the actions of employees where vicarious liability takes place. While laws evolve and change, individual vicarious liability may face charges with more frequency. It is crucial for a company to know what the employees are doing inside the building, and it is equally important for workers to know that their actions could lead to criminal charges for activity considered illegal.

Criminal Defense against Vicarious Liability

To defend against allegations of vicarious liability, it is critical to hire a lawyer with a background in these crimes. Legal representation will help in devising a strategy against the prosecution. It is important to keep out of prison and mitigate the damage caused through the vicarious liability activity.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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