Criminal liability / responsibility of legal persons for economic or public health offences
Public health infractions
Criminal liability / responsibility of legal persons
Principle of trust
Principle of guilt
RULING Nº 212/95
23 of April of 1995
Criminal responsibility of legal persons for economic or public health offences is not contrary to the constitutional provision whereby legal persons have only such rights and duties as are compatible with their nature.
Protection of confidence is of fundamental importance in the economic sphere. Effective prosecution of most economic crime necessitates punishing not only the enterprises or entities involved but also the individuals who represent them or of whom they are composed.
The rule is that only natural persons can be held criminally responsible. Punishment of legal persons for criminal offences is exceptional, and require to be justified by practical considerations of law enforcement or crime prevention.
In the Court's view the constitutional permissibility of making legal persons responsible for criminal offences had to be assessed essentially from the standpoint of the rule of law in a democratic society. That principle, in so far as it required that confidence be protected in the economic sphere, justified punishment of legal persons for certain economic offences.