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updated and corrections / mise à jour et corrections: 7 September 2009

by / par ©François Lareau, 2008-, Ottawa, Canada
First placed on the Internet on 2 April 2008

Bibliography actio libera in causa, prior fault

Bibliographie: actio libera in causa et faute antérieure

AMBOS, Kai, "General Principles of Criminal Law in the Rome Statute", (1999) 10(1) Criminal Law Forum 1-32, and see pp. 25-26; available at http://lehrstuhl.jura.uni-goettingen.de/kambos/Person/doc/General_Principles.pdf (accessed on 1 April 2008);

THE AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE, Model Penal Code: Proposed Official Draft, Philadelphia: The American Law Institute, 1962, xxii, 346 p., see section 2.08, "Intoxication", p. 38;

"Section 2.08.  Intoxication
     (2) When recklessness  establishes an element of the offense, if the actor, due to self-induced intoxication, is unaware of a risk of which he would have been aware
had he been sober, such unawareness is immaterial."


BURCHELL, E.M., J.R.L. Milton and J.M. Burchell, South African Criminal Law and Procedure, Vol I, General Principles of Criminal Law by EM Burchell and PMA Hunt, 2nd ed., Cape Town: Juta, 1983, lxii, 512 p., and see "ACTIO LIBERA IN CAUSA", at pp. 291-293,  ISBN: 070211345X (hardcover) and 0702113468 (softcover); research note: there is now a 3rd ed., Kenwyn: Juta, 1997, xxxviii, 383 p., (series;  South African criminal law and procedure; v. 1), ISBN: 070213855X which I have not consulted;

BURCHELL, Jonathan and John Milton, Principles of Criminal Law, Cape Town: Juta, 1991, xlvii, 669 p., and see pp. 80-81, ISBN: 07212639X; research note: there is now a 2nd ed,  Kenwyn: Juta, 1997,  li, 734 p., ISBN: 0702138541 which I have not consulted yet;

CANADA, Criminal Code, s. 35; available at http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/index.html; Code criminel, article 35, disponible à http://laws.justice.gc.ca/fr/HOME;

Self-defence in case of aggression
    35.  Every one who has without justification assaulted another but did not commence the assault with intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm, or has without justification provoked an assault on himself by another, may justify the use of force subsequent to the assault if

(a) he uses the force

(i) under reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm from the violence of the person whom he has assaulted or provoked, and

(ii) in the belief, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary in order to preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm;

(b) he did not, at any time before the necessity of preserving himself from death or grievous bodily harm arose, endeavour to cause death or grievous bodily harm; and

(c) he declined further conflict and quitted or retreated from it as far as it was feasible to do so before the necessity of preserving himself from death or grievous bodily harm arose. [emphasis in bold added]

    36. Provocation includes, for the purposes of sections 34 and 35, provocation by blows, words or gestures.


Légitime défense en cas d'agression
    35.   Quiconque a, sans justification, attaqué un autre, mais n’a pas commencé l’attaque dans l’intention de causer la mort ou des lésions corporelles graves, ou a, sans justification, provoqué sur lui-même une attaque de la part d’un autre, peut justifier l’emploi de la force subséquemment à l’attaque si, à la fois :

a) il en fait usage :

(i) d’une part, parce qu’il a des motifs raisonnables d’appréhender que la mort ou des lésions corporelles graves ne résultent de la violence de la personne qu’il a attaquée ou provoquée,

(ii) d’autre part, parce qu’il croit, pour des motifs raisonnables, que la force est nécessaire en vue de se soustraire lui-même à la mort ou à des lésions corporelles graves;

b) il n’a, à aucun moment avant qu’ait surgi la nécessité de se soustraire à la mort ou à des lésions corporelles graves, tenté de causer la mort ou des lésions corporelles graves;

c) il a refusé de continuer le combat, l’a abandonné ou s’en est retiré autant qu’il lui était possible de le faire avant qu’ait surgi la nécessité de se soustraire à la mort ou à des lésions corporelles graves. [le foncé est un ajout]

    36.  La provocation comprend, pour l’application des articles 34 et 35, celle faite par des coups, des paroles ou des gestes.

DANDO, Shigemitsu, 1913-, The Criminal Law of Japan: The General Part, Littleton (Colorado): Fred B. Rothman, 1997, xxiv, 521 p., and see "Acts Free in Causation", at pp. 77-80 (Series; Publications of the Comparative Criminal Law Project, vol. 19); limited preview available at http://books.google.com/books?id=gN0QgcW4Td0C&pg=PR17&dq=%22german+criminal+law%22&lr=&as_brr=3&ei=fZvKR-WlBKGyiQGvjrgK&sig=OePFCBqZQ5B-pU7oaj7vYuuszHI and http://books.google.com/books?id=gN0QgcW4Td0C&dq=%22german+criminal+law%22&lr=&as_brr=3&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 (accessed on 2 March 2008);

DEGIROLAMI, Marc O., "Culpability in Creating Criminal Necessity" , Alabama Law Review, Vol. 60, forthcoming and available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1115835 (accessed on 3 April 2008);

ESER, "Article 31: Grounds for excluding criminal responsibility" in Otto Triffterer, ed., Commentary on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Observers' Notes, Article by Article, Baden Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1999, xxviii, 1295 p. at pp. 537-554, see "Intoxication" at pp. 546-548, ISBN: 378906173; copy at the Department of External Affairs, Ottawa, call number: legal KZ 6310 .C734 1999; available at http://www.freidok.uni-freiburg.de/volltexte/3922/pdf/Eser_Grounds_for_excluding_criminal_responsibility.pdf (accessed on 7 March 2008);

Unless "voluntarily intoxicated"

By excluding exculpation if the person concerned became voluntarily intoxicated, the Statute attempts to prevent a mala fide procured state of incapacity, as would be the case
if penal law were to tolerate that a person puts himself into a state of non-responsibility by means of intoxication with the objective of committing a crime and later to invoke his lack of capacity as a ground for excluding responsibility. Instead of denying any voluntary intoxication an exculpation, however, the Statute follows the principle of actio libera in causa by presupposing that the person was aware of the risk and likelihood of getting involved in criminal conduct at the point of becoming intoxicated. Consequently, intoxication is only then excluded as a defence if (a) the person intentionally became drunk or otherwise intoxicated and (b) knowingly or recklessly took the risk that, due to the intoxication, he would commit or otherwise get involved in a crime.  Thus, intoxication can be invoked as a defence if and as long as the person was involuntarily intoxicated or, although having voluntarily become drunk or stupefied by drugs, was not aware of the risk that he could engage in criminal conduct as a ramification of the intoxication. Yet, even if the person is aware of such likelihood, he is only barred from exculpation if the crime he is likely to become involved in would be "within the jurisdiction of the court".  This means that even in a case in which a soldier is aware that,
due to his drunkenness, he might commit a murder, he could hardly be barred from invoking intoxication as a defence as long as he was not aware of the genocidal or antihumanitarian
character of the murder in terms of article 6 or 7 of this Statute42.
42 As this reference and limitation to the "jurisdiction of the court" was added to the last sentence of article 31 para. 1 (b) rather late, namely (according to the available papers) by the Chairman's (of the Working Group on General Principles of Criminal Law) proposal for article 31 para. 1 (b) Option 3 (U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/C.1/WGGP/L.8/Rev.l (25 June 1998)), it is not quite clear whether this restriction of the responsibility by actio libera in causa was made on purpose or whether an interpretation different from that assumed here was intended." (pp. 547-548)

FINKELSTEIN, Claire O., and  Leo Katz,  "Contrived  Defenses  and Deterrent  Threats : Two  Facets  of One Problem", (Spring 2008) 5(2) Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 479-504; available at http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/osjcl/Articles/Volume5_2/FinkelsteinKatzPDF.pdf  (accessed on 23  March 2008); deals  with the doctrine actio libera in causa;

GRAVEN, Philippe,L'infraction pénale punissable, Berne : Éditions Staempfli, 1993, xv, 346 p., (Collection; Précis de droit Staempfli), ISBN: 372720978X; il y a maintenant une deuxième édition soit une mise à jour par Bernhard Sträuli, 1995, 376 p.,  ISBN: 3727209836;

GUR-ARYE, Miriam, Actio Libera in Causa in Criminal Law,  Jerusalem : Harry Sacher Institute for Legislative Research and Comparative Law, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1984, 110 p.; Research Note: see in particular Chapter 3: "Action Libera in Causa and the Defences of Duress, Necessity and Private-Defence"; see PDF Table of Contents;

HURTADO POZO, José, Droit pénal -- Partie générale, 2, Zurich: Schulthness Polygraphischer Verlag, 2002, xli, 396 p., ISBN: 3725544700

HERMANN, Joachim, "Causing the Conditions of One's Own Defense: The Multifaceted Approach of German Law", [1986] Brigham Young UniversityLaw Review 747-767; available at http://lawreview.byu.edu/archives/1986/3/her.pdf (accessed on 24 March 2008); also published  in A. Eser et al., eds., Justification and Excuse: Comparative Perspectives, vol. 1, Dobbs Ferry (New York), Transnational Juris Publications, 1987, at p. 745, ISBN: 0929179226; important contribution;

KATZ, Leo, "Before and After: Temporal Anomalies in Legal Doctrine", (2003) 151 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 863-885, at 880-881; vailable at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=347300  or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.347300  (accessed on 1 April 2008);

KILLIAS, Martin en collaboration avec Bernard A. Dénéréaz, Précis de droit pénal général, Berne: Staempfli, 1998, xlv, 300 p., (collection; Précis de droit Staempfli),  ISBN:  3727209895; il existe aussi une 2e édition, Berne, 2001;

LOGOZ, Paul, 1888-1973,  Commentaire du Code pénal suisse, Partie Générale, 2e éd. mise à jour avec la collaboration d'Yves Sandoz, Neuchâtel : Delachaux & Niestlé, 1976, 569 p., ISBN: 2603000578;

MANNHEIM, Hermann, 1889-, Group problems in crime and punishment, and other studies in criminology and criminal law, London, Routledge and Paul [1955], x, 309 p.( International library of sociology and social reconstruction (Routledge & Kegan Paul)), and see pp. 292-296; limited preview available at http://books.google.com/books?id=Yh7pzooWO9EC&pg=PA292&dq=%22actio+libera%22&lr=lang_en&as_brr=0&sig=2QsQLPcQMnz4pbHq5OGSf_KQZD8#PPA292,M1  and http://books.google.com/books?id=Yh7pzooWO9EC&dq=%22actio+libera%22&lr=lang_en&as_brr=0&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 (accessed on 1 April 2008);

MITCHELL, Edward H., 1972-, Self-Made Madness: Rethinking Illness and Criminal Responsibility,
Aldershot (Hants, England)/Burlington (Vt.) : Ashgate, c2003, xix, 252 p., and see "Robinson's Doctrine of Separate Liability", at pp. 102-104, ISBN: 0754623327; pages 102-104 are available at http://books.google.com/books?id=fLkrTqPI65UC&pg=PA102&dq=%22+%22Causing+the+
Conditions+of+One%27s+Own+Defense%22&lr=&as_brr=0&ei=KDT3R4_6LJDyiwGot-zyCQ&sig=qsaqhL0KVdemrXb0c_axPP-3cA4 and http://books.google.com/books?id=fLkrTqPI65UC&dq=%22+%22Causing+the+Conditions+of+One's+Own+Defense%22&lr=&as_brr=0&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 (accessed on 5 April 2008);

Perka v. The Queen, [1984] 2 S.C.R. 232, available at  http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1984/1984rcs2-232/1984rcs2-232.html

In Salvador, Jones J.A. cited sources in support of his view that illegal conduct should act as a bar to the necessity defence. These sources do not support that view but do support a closely related notionthat if the accused's own "fault" (including negligence or recklessness) is responsible for, the events giving rise to the necessity, he may not' rely on the necessity defence.

This limitation has found expression in several American state statutes codifying the necessity defence, such as those of New York and Illinois and has been adopted by the United States National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws which recommended that the defence apply only "where the situation developed through no fault of the actor". A parallel is sometimes drawn between such a limitation and the restrictions placed on the availability of the largely analogous defence of duress. See, e.g., A. J. Ashworth, "Reason, Logic and Criminal Liability", (1975) 91 L.Q.R. 102 at p. 106.

In my view the accused's fault in bringing about the situation later invoked to excuse his conduct can be relevant to the availability of the defence of necessity, but not in the sweeping way suggested by some of the commentators and in some of the statutory formulations. Insofar as the accused's "fault" reflects on the moral quality of the action taken to meet the emergency, it is irrelevant to the issue of the availability of the defence on the same basis as the illegality or immorality of the actions preceding the emergency are irrelevant. If this fault is capable of attracting criminal or civil liability in its own right, the culprit should be

[page 256]

appropriately sanctioned. I see no basis, however, for "transferring" such liability to the actions taken in response to the emergency, especially where to do so would result in attaching criminal consequences on the basis of negligence to actions which would otherwise be excused.

In my view the better approach to the relationship of fault to the availability of necessity as a defence is based once again on the question of whether the actions sought to be excused were truly "involuntary". If the necessitous situation was clearly foreseeable to a reasonable observer, if the actor contemplated or ought to have contemplated that his actions would likely give rise to an emergency requiring the breaking of the law, then I doubt whether what confronted the accused was in the relevant sense an emergency. His response was in that sense not "involuntary". "Contributory fault" of this nature, but only of this nature, is a relevant consideration to the availability of the defence.

It is on this point that the analogy to duress is especially enlightening. Section 17 of the Criminal Code provides:

17. A person who commits an offence under compulsion by threats of immediate death or grievous bodily harm from a person who is present when the offence is committed is excused for committing the offence if he believes that the threats will be carried out and if he is not a party to a conspiracy or association whereby he is subject to compulsion ...(Emphasis added.)

The rationale for the proviso making the defence unavailable to a member of a criminal conspiracy or association, is the same as that articulated with regard to the common law defence of duress by Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest in Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland v. Lynch, [1975] A.C. 653 at p. 670:

[page 257]

In posing the case where someone is 'really' threatened I use the word 'really' in order to emphasise that duress must never be allowed to be the easy answer of those ... who readily could have avoided the dominance of threats nor of those who allow themselves to be at the disposal and under the sway of some gangster-tyrant.

If section 17 and the comments of Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest embody a notion of "contributory fault" it is not per se on account of the accused's participation in criminal or immoral activity at the time he became subject to threats, nor on account of any simple negligence on his part, but rather on account of the clear foreseeability of his becoming subject to such threats and domination and the consequent conclusion that he was not "really" threatened.

In my view the same test is applicable to necessity. If the accused's "fault" consists of actions whose clear consequences were in the situation that actually ensued, then he was not "really" confronted with an emergency which compelled him to commit the unlawful act he now seeks to have excused. In such situations the defence is unavailable. Mere negligence, however, or the simple fact that he was engaged in illegal or immoral conduct when the emergency arose will not disentitle an individual to rely on the defence of necessity.

RABIE, A., " 'Actiones libera in causa' ", (1978) 41 Tydskrif vir hedendaagse Romeins-Hollandse reg.  (THRHR) = Journal of contemporary Roman-Dutch law 60; title noted in my research but document not consulted; document may not be in English;

ROBACZEWSKI, Corinne, 1973-,  Le rôle de la faute antérieure en matière de responsabilité pénale,  thèse de doctorat, Lille 2, 2002, dact., 468 f.; directeur de thèse: Alain Prothais; titre noté dans mes recherches; cette thèse peut traiter du sujet.  Peut-être que l'auteur peut nous renseigner sur ce sujet?

"L'objectif de cette thèse a été de dégager et d'expliquer le rôle de la faute antérieure, la nature de la faute s'induisant de ce rôle. Alors que la plupart des auteurs est hostile à la prise en compte d'une telle faute parce que la culpabilité ne s'étire pas dans la durée, on s'est efforcé de montrer qu'elle ne joue à ce stade qu'un rôle très limité. Seule la culpabilité réelle et concrète, nécessaire à la personnalisation de la sanction, fait véritablement jouer un rôle à la faute antérieure. Le rôle de la faute antérieure est en revanche omniprésent au stade de l'imputation, aussi bien positivement, comme une condition d'existence de la responsabilité pénale, que négativement, comme une condition d'exonération de cette responsabilité.  La répression peut sans doute y trouver son compte; il n'en va pas de même de la sécurité juridique...

The objective of the thesis is to identify and explain the function of a former offence. We argue that the latter function implies the qualification of this offence. Most authors rule out the relevance of taking into account a former offence, on the grounds that the culpability concept has no inter-temporal character. By contrast, we demonstrate that the function of a former offence is very limited for the characterization of culpability. Only effective culpability, which is necessary for the personalization of the sanction, is argued to impact the function of a former offence. However, the function of a former offence is decisive for the delineation of liabilities. This can apply in a positive sense, as a condition of existence of criminal liability. This can also apply in a negative sense, as a condition of limitation of criminal liability. We point to implications in terms of repressive policy. However, we demonstrate that the function of the former offence can threaten legal security..." (sudoc catalogue)

ROBINSON, P.H., "Causing the Conditions of One's Own Defense: A Study in the Limits of Theory in Criminal Doctrine", (1985) 71 Virginia Law Review 1-63; also published in Albin Eser et al., eds., Justification and Excuse: Comparative Perspectives, vol. 1, Dobbs Ferry (New York): Transnational Juris Publications, 1987, ISBN: 0929179226, p. 657; available at   SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=662027 (accessed on 24 March 2008); important contribution;

SILVING, Helen, "Intoxicants and Criminal Conduct" in Helen Silving, Essays on Mental Incapacity and Criminal Conduct, Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1967, xvi, 379 p. at pp. 214-337;

SLIEDREGT, Ellies van, The Criminal Responsibility of Individuals for Violations of International Humanitarian Law, The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2003, xxiv, 437 p., see "The culpa in causa or 'conduct-in-causing' analysis", at pp. 238-239; "Culpa in causa" for self-defence, at pp. 263-264,  ISBN: 9067041661; copy at Ottawa University, FTX General, K5064 .S53 2003;

__________"Defences in International Criminal Law", Paper to be presented at the conference Convergence of Criminal Justice Systems: Building Bridges Bridging the Gap, The International Society For The Reform Of Criminal Law. 17th International Conference, 25 August 2003- ; available at http://www.isrcl.org/Papers/Sliedregt.pdf  (accessed on 1 April 2008);

"The culpa in causa or ‘conduct-in-causing’ analysis
Can a person rely on self-defence when he provoked the act of violence against which he defended himself? Can one who voluntarily gets drunk and commits a war crime in his state of drunkenness rely on a plea of intoxication? All legal systems encounter the question of whether criminal liability should be imposed on a person who, through his own fault, has placed himself in a state that would normally have negated liability for his offence. Instances such as those described above have been dealt with in different ways. There are two routes to a common destination. One route is to consider the action to be a one-stage event and deny the resort to a defence because of the previous behaviour. The prior fault affects the offence directly and does not provide a ground for defence that is independent of the definition of the offence. Liability will be incurred through the concept of recklessness. The actio libera in causa doctrine provides for another, slightly different approach. Under this doctrine, which has been developed in continental legal systems, particularly in cases of voluntary intoxication, the actor cannot rely on a defence as he is blamed for having caused his own incapacity. Prior fault and offence are connected, but, unlike the one-stage approach, considered separately. This way, complicated discussions on the mental element that in reality precedes the (criminal) act are avoided. Actio libera in causa relates to a situation comprising two stages. In the first stage, the actor can choose between alternative courses of conduct – to drink or not to drink alcohol – leading him to the second stage, in which the offence is committed in a state or situation which negates its criminality: intoxication, duress, necessity, or self-defence. In the two-stage process the previous behaviour ‘corrects’ resort to the defence and possibly nullifies it.

An example to illuminate the distinction: the culpability for an accident caused by failing brakes lies in not having properly checked the brakes beforehand while the driver knew that they had to be replaced. In the first approach, the driver will be held culpable for having recklessly caused the accident. In the second approach, he will be held responsible for the accident, as his defence - that he did not intend to cause the accident – will fail as a result of his failure to have the brakes repaired/replaced when he knew they were not working properly." (p. 6)

SPAIN/ESPAGNE,  Codigo penal (espagnol), disponible à  http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Penal/lo10-1995.html; see also http://www.unifr.ch/derechopenal/ley.htm (accessed on 19 May 2006);

Art. 20, no. 1(2)
El trastorno mental transitorio no eximirá de pena cuando hubiese sido provocado por el sujeto con el prop´osito de cometer el delito o hubiera previsto o debido prever su .”

SUISSE, Code pénal, art. 19, disponible à http://www.admin.ch/ch/f/rs/3/311.0.fr.pdf  (vérifié le 1 avril 2008); voir aussi l'article 263;

"Art. 19
 Irresponsabilité et responsabilité restreinte

1  L’auteur n’est pas punissable si, au moment d’agir, il ne possédait pas la faculté d’apprécier le caractère illicite de son acte ou de se déterminer d’après cette appréciation.

2  Le juge atténue la peine si, au moment d’agir, l’auteur ne possédait que partiellement la faculté d’apprécier le caractère illicite de son acte ou de se déterminer d’après cette appréciation.

3  Les mesures prévues aux art. 59 à 61, 63, 64, 67 et 67b peuvent cependant être ordonnées.

4  Si l’auteur pouvait éviter l’irresponsabilité ou la responsabilité restreinte et prévoir l’acte commis en cet état, les al. 1 à 3 ne sont pas applicables."

__________ Message concernant la modification du Code pénal suisse (dispositions générales, entrée en vigueur et application du Code pénal) et du Code pénal militaire ainsi qu'une loi fédérale régissant la condition pénale des mineurs du 21 septembre 1998, dans FF (Feuille fédérale) 199 II, pp. 1787-2221; disponible à http://www.domainepublic.ch/files/upload/bot-stgb-at-f.pdf (vérifié le 25 février 2008);

212.42 Exception (art. 17a)

L’actuel article 12 CP dispose que l’auteur sera considéré comme responsable s’il a provoqué la grave altération ou le trouble de sa conscience dans le dessein de commettre l’infraction. Le texte légal ne vise ainsi au sens strict que l’actio libera in causa intentionnelle, à savoir le cas de la personne qui s’est mise intentionnellement en état d’irresponsabilité ou de responsabilité restreinte en vue de commettre une infraction.

Conformément à la jurisprudence du Tribunal fédéral et à l’ensemble de la doctrine 42, le projet va plus loin et déclare que l’article 17 P ne s’appliquera pas si l’auteur pouvait éviter l’irresponsabilité ou la responsabilité restreinte et prévoir l’acte qu’il a commis en cet état. L’article 17a P vise ainsi celui qui abolit ou qui réduit ses facultés d’apprécier le caractère illicite de l’acte ou de se déterminer d’après cette appréciation, intentionnellement ou par une imprévoyance coupable. Il n’est pas nécessaire que le délinquant ait voulu l’infraction (dol simple), mais il suffit qu’il ait accepté la possibilité de commettre une infraction (dol éventuel) ou qu’il ait pu ou dû se rendre compte ou tenir compte du fait qu’en diminuant ses facultés, il s’exposait au danger de commettre une infraction (négligence). On pense notamment à celui qui s’enivre, intentionnellement ou par négligence, alors qu’il aurait pu ou dû tenir compte du fait qu’il pouvait être amené à conduire; s’il cause un accident mortel, il sera puni pour violation de l’article 91 de la loi fédérale du 19 décembre 1958 sur la circulation routière (LCR; RS 741.01) et pour homicide par négligence.
42 Voir par exemple Graven 1995, p. 243 s.; ATF 117 IV 292.