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Conflicting Duties in Criminal Law

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Coca Vila, I. (2019). Conflicting Duties in Criminal Law. New Criminal Law Review, 22(1), 34-72. doi:10.1525/nclr.2019.22.1.34.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-BA08-0
Abstract
Despite the great interest aroused among Anglo-American criminal law scholars by the justification of necessity, the conflict of duties as a separate defense sui generis has gone largely unnoticed until now. The aim of this paper is to fill the gap by providing a critical review of the concept and foundation for a conflict of duties as defense in the continental criminal law. Regarding the former, this legal institution is defined as a conflict between grounds of obligation that cannot be cumulatively fulfilled. Their deontic nature (prohibited or required) is thus irrelevant. With regard to the second issue, the argument is made that the solution of the collision involves a judgment set out to hierarchically arrange the colliding reasons from a formal point of view that is respectful with the principles of autonomy and solidarity. Therefore, the obligor must only fulfill the strongest ground of obligation—the only duty that can be legitimized in the particular situation—or, when before a conflict between equivalent grounds of obligation, they must comply with the disjunctive or alternative duty—aid one or the other—which the legal system imposes on them.