Against Control Tests for Criminal Responsibility

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter presents an authoritative case against control tests for criminal responsibility. It argues that at present there is no need for the law to adopt an independent control test for excuse or mitigation. It considers four false starts or distractions that bedevil clear thinking about the necessity for a control test: the belief that allegedly uncontrollable behavior is not action; the belief that behavior must be out of control if it is the sign or symptom of a disease; the belief that the metaphysical argument about free will and responsibility has any relevance to the criminal-law problem of whether a control test is necessary; and the belief that causation at any level of causal explanation, including abnormal causation, is per se an excusing condition or the equivalent of compulsion. It also examines how impairment of rationality accounts for control difficulties. The chapter includes comments by some of the nation's top legal scholars from the field of criminal law, tackling topics such as cognition and the folk psychology of self-control.


control test, criminal responsibility, free will, causation, rationality, cognition, folk psychology, self-control

Publication Title

Criminal Law Conversations