Critics of former President Donald Trump seem to have cheered for the recent conviction of the Trump Organization on charges of tax evasion and other crimes. At the same time, they may have been disappointed that the highest fine the company could pay for cheating is his $1.62 million. of new york times It’s reportedly a “bucket drop” for organizations that have generated millions of dollars in revenue over the past few years.
Such disappointment is understandable. That raises questions about the point of filing criminal charges against the corporations, given that the corporate defendants have not faced the possibility of jail time for the crimes they have committed.
It is important to remember that criminal liability and punishment serve multiple purposes. These include deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation. Possibility of imprisonment serves each of these purposes. The deprivation of liberty that accompanies imprisonment creates incentives for responsible behavior. Moreover, if an individual is convicted of engaging in illegal activities, they are sent to a place where rehabilitation is possible and incapacitation, or exclusion from society, is relatively certain.
It may be debatable whether criminal law effectively achieves these objectives when individuals are involved. But there is another goal of criminal law that continues to justify its application to corporations. It’s retaliation.
Retributive justice has long been understood as an objective of criminal law. This is due to the expressive nature of criminal liability and punishment. All our laws, especially criminal law, specify how certain social and personal goods, such as physical integrity and the value of property, should be valued. Criminal law thus reflects the moral judgment of the community that enacts it.
Consequently, any mandate of conduct which the Community, through its laws, has deemed to be wrong should be responded to in a manner which adequately expresses the values which the defendant’s conduct has undermined. are important to both crime victims and the community at large. it is a correction.
In the criminal context, the correct evaluation of the goods is expressed by the jury’s conviction. No business is immune from this kind of justice. American law recognizes a corporation as a separate entity from its owners, managers, and employees. Companies have their own identities (personas) and regularly participate in society in various ways. We need not look to the current obsession of some Republicans to challenge companies whose personas they deem too “awakened” to prove this.
Corporations are indistinguishable from individuals when it comes to furthering the criminal law objective of expressing a fair valuation of goods. The value that a community assigns to a particular good through its laws should be the same regardless of the status of the wrongdoer who violates that value. To the extent that businesses can misvalue a particular product just as easily as an individual, they should be subject to moral censure under criminal law. Holding companies accountable for their actions in this way consistently reinforces the meaning of community values.
Consider the indictments against the Trump Organization. Prosecutors proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the company was involved in tax fraud, fraud schemes, conspiracy, and falsification of business records. In other words, the prosecution proved that the Trump Organization improperly assessed the social importance of following the rules. deserves to be
The maximum penalty the Trump Organization could face may seem relatively small, but the exact number does not detract from the jury’s verdict’s expressive message. Wrong and should be publicly condemned. Our society expects no condemnation harsher than a conviction that the Trump Organization should not escape.
Lawrence Friedman teaches constitutional and privacy and law enforcement courses at New England Law | Boston.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author.