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On the Boundaries of Culture as an Affirmative Defense
Arizona Law Review (2009)
  • Reid Griffith Fontaine, University of Arizona
  • Eliot M. Held, University of Arizona
A “cultural defense” to criminal culpability cannot achieve true pluralism without collapsing into a totally subjective, personal standard. Applying an objective cultural standard does not rescue a defendant from the external imposition of values—the purported aim of the cultural defense—because a cultural standard is, at its core, an external standard imposed onto an individual. The pluralist argument for a cultural defense also fails on its own terms—after all, justice systems are themselves cultural institutions. Furthermore, a defendant’s background is already accounted for at sentencing. The closest thing to a cultural defense that a court could adopt without damaging the culpability regime is a narrow de minimis rule.
  • Affirmative Defense,
  • Excuse,
  • Criminal Law,
  • Crime,
  • Justice,
  • Punishment,
  • Culture
Publication Date
Citation Information
Reid Griffith Fontaine and Eliot M. Held. "On the Boundaries of Culture as an Affirmative Defense" Arizona Law Review Vol. 51 (2009)
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