Versari Crimes

41 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2020 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020

Date Written: November 23, 2020


The versari doctrine alleges that if a person commits a crime, he or she is strictly liable for all the resulting consequences. This doctrine, which goes back to canon law, doesn't get much attention these days from criminal law theorists. But it probably should. A fair case can be made that the doctrine underwrites the felony murder rule, the misdemeanor manslaughter rule, the legal wrong doctrine, constructive malice, the natural and probable consequences doctrine, and the Pinkerton doctrine. Those doctrines don't have many friends in the academy today, although they endure in positive law despite all the academic criticism. Because they endure, criminal-law theorists should perhaps pay more attention to the versari doctrine. Perhaps they should try to understand what the doctrine says and why it seems to have some intuitive appeal to some people, despite not having much intuitive appeal to those inside the academy. The paper, written for a conference ASU sponsored on mens rea and criminal justice reform, is an effort to better understand the versari doctrine.

Suggested Citation

Garvey, Stephen P., Versari Crimes (November 23, 2020). Arizona State Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Stephen P. Garvey (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-8589 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

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