A law prevents a crime from occurring yet someone forces someone to commit the crime? Is the person forcing the crime to be committed guilty of breaking the law that is supposed to prevent the crime from occurring?

For example, a pharmacist is not allowed by law to fill a known fraudulent prescription, however the police officer solicits the pharmacist to fill it.

closed as off-topic by Conifold, Cort Ammon, virmaior Jan 4 '16 at 5:56

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  • "While this question may be related to philosophy or occur in a philosophical context, the question itself doesn't seem to be about philosophy, and is therefore not a good fit for our site." – Conifold, Cort Ammon, virmaior
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  • It would help to know what the crime is and how one forced someone else to commit it. – Ben Jan 4 '16 at 4:57
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    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Your question is a bit vague and it may not be philosophical. Criminal laws by themselves do not have power to prevent crimes from occurring. It seems important exactly how the person "forces" the crime to be committed, do you have an example in mind? Also, did you consider asking on Law SE law.stackexchange.com/questions – Conifold Jan 4 '16 at 4:59
  • @Conifold Thanks, I would like a philosophical point of view to the question. – Breakskater Jan 4 '16 at 5:01
  • @BenPiper Thanks, I've edited the question with an example. – Breakskater Jan 4 '16 at 5:02
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    @Breakskater Can you identify a philosophical school which agrees with the statement "a law prevents a crime from occurring?" It strikes me as quite hard to believe, given that nearly every law I'm aware of has failed to prevent crimes from occurring. Also, its worth noting that the philosophical concepts here, notably "causality," do not always line up with criminal law. You may want to reword the question to use less legal terminology and more philosophical terminology – Cort Ammon Jan 4 '16 at 5:05

This question is phrased as a legal question, which belongs on Law.SE. However, it seems as though the philosophical question you are getting at is whether you are responsible for your actions if someone else tells you to do it.

Obviously there's many opinions in philosophy about this, but the current prevailing opinion would be "yes, you are responsible for any action you do under your own free will, even if you are being asked to do so by someone else." This opinion is maintained solidly by the result of the Nuremberg trials, which made it very clear that a solider could not simply claim they were "following orders" and get off for crimes against humanity.

There is an exception for duress, which is when the person asking you to do something is sufficiently forceful that it is reasonable to say you had no freewill. For example, you are rarely considered responsible for actions done while a gun is held to your head, up to but not including murdering someone yourself.

The person doing the forcing is responsible for their actions, of course, but not automatically responsible for yours. They become responsible when it becomes clear that they took responsibility away. This is the basis for arguments regarding statutory rape. The idea is that it is too easy for someone older to take over a situation thoroughly enough that a younger person cannot be deemed responsible for their actions, because they simply didn't know better.

There are always grey areas. However, hopefully those cases will be enough to frame any future questions you might have about responsibility.

  • Thanks, I believe in the example the police officer's authority put the pharmacist in enough duress to become responsible for filling the fraudulent prescription. – Breakskater Jan 5 '16 at 3:01
  • I voted your answer up not only for the quality of the answer itself, but for your ability to derive the underlying question from whatever the OP wrote initially. Well done! – daOnlyBG Jan 5 '16 at 16:17

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