Abstract for 2008 Honors Colloquium

Devin DeBacker


"Harmful Offense to Others: A New Liberty-Limiting Principle and the 'New' Child Pornography"

I examine the underpinnings of the criminal law in "harm" and "offense," focusing on work by Feinberg, Rawls, and Mill. My thesis continues the theoretical discussion on "harm" and "offense" as the two bases for establishing the boundaries of legitimate criminal law. Specifically, I introduce a new corollary - the harmful-offense principle - that attempts to explain the relationship of the seemingly-disparate concepts of harm and offense. To demonstrate this principle's practical and theoretical usefulness, I apply the concept of "harmful offense" to a case study of Supreme Court rulings on recent child pornography that overturned a Congressional ban on the new wave of virtual child pornography.