Vanderbilt Law Review


Todd Haugh

First Page



The harms of overcriminalization are usually thought of in a particular way-that the proliferation of criminal laws leads to increasing and inconsistent criminal enforcement and adjudication. For example, an offender commits an unethical or illegal act and, because of the overwhelming depth and breadth of the criminal law, becomes subject to too much prosecutorial discretion and faces disparate enforcement or punishment. But there is an additional, possibly more pernicious, harm of overcriminalization. Drawing from the fields of criminology and behavioral ethics, this Article makes the case that overcriminalization actually increases the commission of criminal behavior itself, particularly by white collar offenders. This occurs because overcriminalization, by lessening the legitimacy of the criminal law, fuels offender rationalizations. Rationalizations are part of the psychological process necessary for the commission of crime-they allow offenders to square their self- perception as "good people" with the illegal behavior they are contemplating,

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Criminal Law Commons