Genetics and Criminal Justice

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This essay addresses the relevance of genetic data, including gene-by-environment interactions, to criminal responsibility and sentencing. After describing the criminal law’s implicit psychology and criteria for responsibility, it considers the present and future contributions genetics may make. It suggests that, at present, genetics should not play a large role in the adjudication of individual cases unless it translates directly into the law’s folk psychological criteria for responsibility, which it seldom does. Future discoveries may increase the usefulness of genetics to rational adjudication, however. The role of genetics at sentencing may be somewhat more promising, especially concerning the prediction of future behavior.


genetics, law, sentencing, criminal responsibility, free will, determinism, MAOA, G×E

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Molecular Psychology