A corporation, being a business organization with a separate and distinct legal personality can incur criminal liability as a principal but it can also incur vicarious or strict criminal liability.
An example of principal criminal liability is when the corporation fails to pay taxes on its taxable income. It is the corporation who has the legal duty to pay taxes and its failure to pay income taxes makes it principally liable for this criminal act.
A corporation can also be vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of its agents and employees who are acting within the scope of their employment. For instance, a corporation whose business is the transport and delivery of products in trucks uses the public roads.
Drivers of trucks must maintain a 0.0 blood alcohol limit while operating their trucks. If a driver of a truck breaches the 0.0 blood alcohol content limit, collides with a parked truck and damages the truck, the driver of the truck will be criminally liable for driving with a blood alcohol content that is over and above the prescribed limit of 0.0.
But, as for the criminal liability for damage to property, while it was the truck driver that actually operated and controlled the vehicle and caused it to collide with a parked truck, the corporation which owns the truck and employs the driver is also vicariously liable for the damage to property. For one, the corporation should have exercised extraordinary diligence in hiring and selecting its drivers and in monitoring them as they perform the duties of their function as drivers.
If a corporation’s business is the operation of a pharmacy and its pharmacist dispenses and sells prescription sleeping pills to a customer without a prescription, the pharmacist and the pharmacy corporation will both be liable under strict criminal liability. The act of dispensing sleeping pills without a prescription is a criminal act because sleeping pills contain a regulated drug as its active ingredient. Both the pharmacist who actually dispensed the sleeping pill and the pharmacy which employs the pharmacist are strictly liable for this act.
A corporation has no physical body so it cannot be sentenced, to a prison term if found guilty. It can, however, be sentenced to pay a fine or its license can be revoked. The persons through which the corporation acted in committing the criminal offense (be it the corporation’s employees or its officers) are equally liable with the corporation.
If you are charged with a criminal offence it is recommended that you seek legal assistance. This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.