Vicarious Corporate Liability in Criminal Law


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When a single employee commits a crime, he or she could pass on the liability to the corporation so that the entity faces criminal charges as well and may need to later pay extensive fines for conviction. Knowing what this means often helps the company avoid vicarious corporate liability and avert serious repayment for the actions of the employee.

Through the actions of an employee, the company becomes responsible for criminal intent or behavior. Sometimes, this is at the behest of a supervisor that knows the activity is illegal. Other times, the worker is not aware what he or she is doing will result in a crime. However, no matter if the person is ignorant of a crime occurring, he or she could involve the company so that criminal charges issue to the corporation as well as the individual. Then, a criminal case will proceed with possible severe sentencing depending on the circumstances and severity of the illegal acts.

Implicating the Company

Some companies will take responsibility for the crimes an employee commits even if the business has no direct connection with the actions. If the person working for the entity has property from the corporation or was given such items, he or she could commit a crime with them and then implicate the company. Such a connection occurs when the commercial entity provides the person with a laptop for company use only. If the person is able to commit fraud with the laptop even when access to the internet only occurs at work, he or she could connect the company to the crime through the device and internet use within the building.

Vicarious Liability in Criminal Law

When the employee commits a crime, he or she may face charges when local or federal law enforcement becomes aware of the illegal activity. Sometimes, the company may cover up the issue before anyone knows a crime occurred. When the worker provides details through social media, however, he or she may reveal the facts for a possible case against him or her. Then, through vicarious liability, the company implicated in the act will also face criminal charges. The responsibility of the crime passes on to the business, and the owner or management will need to defend the entity in court.

Vicarious liability may not exist in the case if the company is able to prove that the employee acted alone, outside of his or her work duties and without company assets. Even if he or she was able to use company assets at the time of the crime, he or she may commit a crime without implicating the company. By having a tablet from the entity, he or she could connect it to his or her own network and engage in fraud. The use of the tablet is often entirely irrelevant. However, if the prosecution is able to connect the association of the company asset to the crime directly, the company may lose the case and face severe fines for the incident.

Facing the Charges

The corporation that faces vicarious liability due to the actions of the employee may need to mitigate the damage through cooperation or fighting against the charges fully. The company will need an abundance of evidence, even when the burden of proof lies with the prosecuting lawyer. It is important to prove that the business had no part in the actions the employee completed to cause the violation of the law. By demonstrating that the vehicle involved in a hit and run could have been any, the company could show that the injuries and damage caused are the fault of the employee only. Similar issues may arise when the worker uses a phone in the building. The corporation may use the fact that the phone is not company property as an out in the vicarious liability circumstances.

Understanding how the company could share the responsibility for the charges is important. The owner or management of the company may need to hire a lawyer to explain the issue and in fighting against the charges. The criminal problems may lie at the feet of the employee only when the corporation is able to prove no connection through vicarious liability.

The Legal Team in Vicarious Criminal Law

Through evidence and supporting facts, the company may proceed through the case with a lawyer’s help in clearing the charges. It is important to defend against the accusations and vicarious liability to avoid the extensive fines and fees that the company may pay through conviction.

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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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