General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Should the punishment for severely disabling (crippling) a person be lesser, greater, or the same as killing a person?

Asked by ibstubro (18760points) October 1st, 2015

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17 Answers

jca's avatar

I’m thinking of something like where the person is in a wheelchair or brain dead for the rest of their lives. I think in that case, it is equivalent to the person being dead, therefore the punishment should be equivalent to killing them.

Blackberry's avatar

Equivalent or greater. You have taken away their ability to work and provide for themselves and their potential family.

kritiper's avatar

It would depend on the intent, or lack of intent, to cause harm, wouldn’t it?

SavoirFaire's avatar

I would suggest making the criminal punishment for crippling someone lesser than the punishment for killing them, while making the civil liability for crippling someone greater than liability for killing them. This would reflect both the societal notion that death is worse than incapacitation and the economic fact that incapacitation is often more burdensome (and for a longer time) than death.

@kritiper Presumably, we should keep intent fixed while varying only the outcome. So compare accidental killing with accidental crippling and premeditated killing with premeditated crippling (or intent to cause harm leading to death with intent to cause harm leading to incapacitation).

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Good question.

If there is intent involved or the breaking of existing laws (like driving while intoxicated), then yes, I think it should be at least the same as murder. I hesitate to say that it should be worse than that, because I’m not sure how a handicapped person would feel if you walked up to them and said “Which is worse? Being crippled or being dead?”. But the seriousness of crippling someone should absolutely be taken into consideration simply because of how many things are inevitably going to change in the person’s life.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

For me, it would depend on the person’s intent. Did they mean to kill or severely harm the victim? If they did, the punishment should be the same and significant. If the outcome was an accident, the punishment should again be based on why the injuries occurred. If the outcome was because of a genuine accident that could have been avoided with more care, yes the person should be punished, but I don’t think a more severe punishment is warranted because the person died.

ragingloli's avatar

Lesser. End of story.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Actually, the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am with my previous answer and I think I most likely agree with @ragingloli. I just don’t feel right about comparing it to murder. It’s definitely horrible and any person responsible for causing someone to become crippled (as described in my last answer) should have consequences for their actions, but…

I could not, under any circumstance, tell someone in a wheelchair that their life was now comparable to someone who is dead. Not to diminish the seriousness of the crime committed against them, but just because it would feel far too much like saying “you may as well be dead now”. On a level that’s hard to explain, I just don’t feel right about my last answer now.

ragingloli's avatar

Just look at Stephen Hawking. Sure, he was not crippled by an outside agent, but as far as cripplings go, you can hardly be more crippled than him.
Locked to a wheel chair, unable to move arms, legs, fingers, can not move his head, can not speak.
And still, one of the most prominent scientists in history.
You think he, and society, would be better off with him dead?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@DrasticDreamer, I don’t think you are saying the ‘person’ who survived but now lives with disabilities is comparable to someone who is dead. If the person who caused the harm, intended to cause that harm or intended for the victim to die, they should receive punishment because of their attempts to cause death or serious harm. If someone runs you over with their car, intending to kill you, and you happen to survive but with very serious and permanent injuries, should the person who attacked you get a lesser sentence because you happened to live? They wanted to kill you or cause you severe harm, that’s why their punishment should be the same.

It’s got nothing to do with considering the victim better off dead.

ragingloli's avatar

It has everything to do with considering the victim off dead.
It is the result that defines the nature of a crime.
There is a reason why attempted homicide not the same as homicide.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

The question is about what ‘should’ happen. In my opinion, the sentence should be determined based on the perpetrator’s intention.

However, sentencing in the US, UK and Australia allows for a life sentence for attempted murder. So the penalty for attempted murder CAN be the equivalent of the sentence for a successful murder.

In the US, “First-degree attempted murder carries greater penalties and often means a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Offenders typically spend at least 10 years in prison, although mandatory minimum sentences for attempting to murder a public official may be 10 to 15 years. Federal laws for attempting to kill a member of Congress or other federal official impose penalties ranging from 70 to 162 months.

Second-degree attempted murder penalties usually range from five years to 15 years in many states, depending on whether serious injury was inflicted. Sentences can be for longer periods if a firearm was used or if the crime was committed by a gang member or at the direction of a criminal gang. A prior criminal record will also enhance a sentence, even doubling it in states with “three strikes” laws, such as California”. (Legal Articles – Homicide)

In the UK, the Crown Prosecuting Page outlining sentencing guidelines for attempted murder states:-

“Level 1

The most serious offences including those which (if the charge had been murder) would come within para. 4 or para. 5 of schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 [see below for its terms)

Nature of offence: Serious and long term physical or psychological harm
Starting point: 30 years custody
Sentencing range: 27 – 35 years custody

Nature of offence: Some physical or psychological harm
Starting point: 20 years custody
Sentencing range: 17 – 25 years custody

Nature of offence: Little or no physical or psychological harm
Starting point: 15 years custody
Sentencing range: 12 – 20 years custody”.

In Qld, Australia, a person found guilty of attempted murder can be given life imprisonment.

Whether or not these sentences are applied is determined not only based on harm to the victim, but through an evaluation of pre-meditated intent. If you’re found to have intended to kill the victim, you could be sentenced to life imprisonment. That’s the maximum sentence in the UK and in Australia.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is interesting how we still persist in eye for and eye thinking. It is pointless to ask what punishment works best for the victim. The damage is not going to be undone. Punishment should be based on deterrence value to prevent creating other victims. What should be chosen is the minimum punishment that has the maximum deterrence.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@LostinParadise, if a prison sentence acted as a deterrent or even as an opportunity for rehabilitation, I’d agree with you. However, I don’t think violent criminals will be deterred or rehabilitated by a prison sentence. So for me, I’d just rather those who would carry out premeditated murder not be amongst us.

Bill1939's avatar

@LostInParadise the fear of punishment is seldom a deterrent for a criminal act. For many, punishment is for retribution. Imprisonment for life without parole should be the maximum sentence for a crime. Intent and negligence should be necessary components for determining a sentence. I do not see a difference in the civil liability for a death or incapacity of a victim.

LostInParadise's avatar

Obviously, if a crime occurs the current laws must not have been a sufficient deterrent. We are talking about the outliers. Surely you believe that if we did away with any punishment, the crime rate would skyrocket. These potential criminals are the ones the laws are intended for. For the rest, all we can do is to keep them off the street.

It is natural to want retribution. It is part of our evolutionary inheritance. It is also natural to favor those who look and talk like us, but our cultural evolution has been countering this tendency. It is time to roll back eye for an eye thinking.

Zaku's avatar

The intent and circumstances and behavior should be more important, it seems to me, than the outcome.

I’d say you generally want more penalty for killing than disabling, to have more disincentive to more severe damage, and more reason to do less damage to others.

I’d have:

accidental no fault -> no penalty
accidental negligent -> penalty to compensate loss, limited by ability of negligent party to pay
accidental gross negligence -> more generous penalty to compensate loss, less limited by ability to pay
intentional disabling -> full compensation plus more penalty for intention
intentional killing -> full compensation to heirs or society plus greater penalty than disabling

All amounts and consequences also adjusted by circumstances and behavior
Additional penalties and jail/reeducation adjusted by intention, behavior, psych exam, etc.

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