The Instigator
Pro (for)
2 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
9 Points

Sentence "Attempted" Crimes The Same As Successful Ones

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/26/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,667 times Debate No: 16730
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (10)
Votes (2)




Attempted-Crime was intended by the perpetrator but did not fall through, such as "attempted murder".

This debate concerns sentencing in the criminal law system not the civil law system.

Saying to "sentence" them the same means that when the required or recommended sentence for a given crime is stated in law it should be stated the same for the "attempted" version of the crime.

I do NOT mean "same" between individual cases. This proposal still allows judges to make what ever considerations in individual cases that they could before. However, as part of sentencing being the "same" any considerations that would be allowed to be made in sentencing for a crime would be allowed in both "attempted" and "successful" cases of it.

Initial Argument

Currently crimes are treated differently based on whether the perpetrator succeeds.

Yet regardless of success the perpetrator has proven themselves to be just as much of a danger to society, and to have just as much criminal intent. There is no good reason to sentence failed criminals more leniently.

There are 3 rational reasons for the state to use sentencing within the criminal law system:
1. Incapacitating offenders and protecting society
2. Deterence-Letting would-be offenders know what's coming to them if they commit the crime.
3. Rehabilitation-Reforming the character of the offender.

Compare two identical scenarios, in one the murderer succeeded in another the murderer failed.

In both cases there are no relevant considerations that justify being lenient against an offender just because their crime failed. A person who tried to commit a crime and failed shows just as much propensity to commit that crime as a person who succeeds at it. The former person was just not as lucky.

1. This makes both individuals just as dangerous to society, so there is equal reason to incapacitate both criminals.
2. Since we want to deter people from even trying the crime in the first place the same purpose of deterrence is fulfilled by equal sentencing.
3. Failing at a crime is not evidence that a person will take less time to rehabilitate or that they will be easier to rehabilitate.

When the same reasons to the same extent as to why the state sentences would be the same for a given offense then it stands to reason and hence justice that the sentencing rules for the two crimes should be the same.


I would like to thank my MasturDbtor for initiating this debate.


I gladly accept my opponent's definitions as it is.

Both of us agree that in the while sentencing criminals - several factors must be considered. We are not talking about is talking about 'attempted' crime vs. 'successful' crime being the only factor involved in sentencing.

The burden of the Pro is to show that success or failure of crime should not be considered during sentencing process AT ALL.

My burden is to show that this should be considered as one of the factors. Even if I can show it to be small factor that should be considered, I will be considered as the winner of this debate.

We are using murder case as an example - perhaps because it is most extreme. The arguments will be generally applicable.


1. Purpose of criminal justice system: Retribution

Without providing any sources, Pro has presented the three purpose of criminal justice system. Contemporary research lists four basic purposes [1]. They are 'retribution', 'deterrence', 'rehabilitation', and 'incapacitations'. As we can see that the Pro has not mentioned the first among the four reasons!

Retribution is the oldest and well established basis of justice. In Exodus [2], it is mentioned as the law of 'an eye for an eye'. This law is backed by Quran as well [3]. Emmanuel Kant has defended this law in his book 'Metaphysik der Sitten' [4]. In United States Supreme Court judgments the role of retribution in criminal justice system is acknowledged [5]. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers cases of attempted murder under separate section from murder (Section 300 and 302 for murder, 304 and 307 for attempted murder) [6].

In attempted crimes, victims have not been harmed. So this factor can be dropped from consideration while administering justice. This may, in general lead to some or major reduction in punishment. Of course the reduction will still depend on other factors, but it stands to reason that a reduction will be applicable in many cases. Failure of crime should be considered as one of the factors while sentencing.

2. Chances of repeat:

One of the purpose of criminal system is 'Incapacitation' or to prevent repeat of crime by same criminal. It can be argued that a person who commits a crime successfully for the first time, gains confidence. On other hand a person who fails to commit a crime may lose confidence. Thus the capacity of a person to repeat a crime may be less if the person failed to commit the crime successfully the first time. The demands of justice may be consequentially reduced. This is not an argument for letting unsuccessful criminal go scot free - but this factor should definitely be considered in quantum of sentencing.

In a study on repeat vicimisation [7], reserchers tried to understand the motivation for the criminals. One of the common answer was - 'it was so easy the first time.'


1. This makes both individuals just as dangerous to society, so there is equal reason to incapacitate both criminals.

As I have shown above, a successful criminal may be more dangerous. This factor has to be considered.

2. Since we want to deter people from even trying the crime in the first place the same purpose of deterrence is fulfilled by equal sentencing.

I agree that deterrence has to be considered as one of the factors and unsuccessful criminals should not be allowed to go scot free. However that is not sufficient as an argument for ignoring the success of crime as a factor.

If jumping a red light is declared a capital offence, it will act as a good deterrence. Everyone will think a million times before trying anything. However the punishment has to be proportional to crime. I am sure my opponent does not want anyone violaters of traffic rules to be shot dead on the spot as deterrence!

3. Failing at a crime is not evidencne that a person will take less time to rehabilitate or that they will be easier to rehabilitate.

Actually it might be an indication that it will be easier to rehabilitate such criminals. It is possible that the crime failed because the criminal was not ruthless. During sentencing court should examine why the criminal failed and grant him some reprieve if applicable.

I have definitely established that outcome of the crime should be considered as one of the factors while passing sentence.

I look forward towards further arguments from MasturDbtor.

[1] and
[2] The Holy Bible: Exodus 21:23-21:25
[3] The Holy Quran 5:45
[7] - Page 3
Debate Round No. 1


Rebuttal Argument 1

I listed off 3 rational reasons for the criminal justice system.

It is true that four basic purposes are often listed. However, even though retribution is still often cited as a justification there is nothing rational about retribution.

Retribution is not as I stated a "rational reason", since rationality can not consider sunken costs. Retribution does not bring the victim back(in the case of murder) or reverse the crime in other cases.

Retribution is just a fancy word for revenge. "Retribution" for its own sake solves absolutely nothing. It does not reduce crime(or by definition it would not be "for its own sake" and could be called "deterrence" or "incapacitation").

And it does not make people in society into better people. In fact it does the exact opposite by validating and normalizing "revenge" as a legitimate motivation for doing things. The clear message being sent is that revenge is OK. When people see "revenge" as a legitimate thing rather than a vice to be avoided they will be more likely to make choices based on trying to get revenge. This contributes to instability in many areas of society, and in particular in people's interpersonal relationships and may even lead some people to murder. In many conflicts people argue over who started it, which means the "retribution" could last indefinitely. The fact that some religious texts support it is irrelevant, since religious texts say a lot of things we no longer follow. The fact that Kant, the Supreme Court, and India all supported it shows these people are only human. Retribution as a factor in criminal justice should be consigned to the history books.

Rebuttal Argument #2 & Counter-Rebuttal 1st Rebuttal

The source Con cites is referring to people sentenced for burglary who say they had committed the crime against the same target several times. It does not say they were sentenced several times for the same crime against the same target, just that they were sentenced and then they said they had done it multiple times in an interview.

Indeed, "Succeeding" in the commission of a crime but then "getting caught" doing it would be very unlikely to elicit the response "it was so easy the first time", since it clearly wasn't "easy" as even though they committed it they were caught.

Another reason was "to collect things". A person who attempts burglary but fails may have seen a lot of things he wants to go back for and may learn from his previous mistakes, and then be even more motivated to commit the crime.

Although as Con said it is possible for someone to commit a crime, become more confident, and then reoffend out of jail or for someone to fail, lose their confidence, and not reoffend it is also possible that a person who succeeds will be shocked at what they did and not reoffend or that a person who fails will feel they have "learned from their misakes(talking mistakes in executing the crime not morality)" and become more determined to try again. Given the environment within prisons if someone is determined to try a crime they failed at again once they get out it's not unlikely they will find allies within the prison inmates to learn from and to join in helping them with the crime once they get out.

So a successful criminal may in some cases be more dangerous, but in other cases a criminal who failed may be more dangerous. This makes "success" a bad criteria to use in sentencing.

Counter-Rebuttal #2

This is a strawman argument. It does not follow that because we should not declare jumping a red light a capital offense therefore we should factor in the success or failure of a crime in sentencing.

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to achieve "good". Otherwise there would be no point in having it. But we have to recognize that implicit in the criminal justice system is "harm". Penalties harm the people who are sentenced. It is still justified in order to bring about more "good" than the "harm". However, the "harm" of executing people for merely jumping a red light would far outweigh any gains from the "good" that would come from deterring people from doing that.

This does not negate the value of deterrence just that like anything worthy of consideration it should not be affoarded absolute consideration.

Counter-Rebuttal #3

It is possible, it is however not definite. Some cases of attempted murder involved ruthless attacks the victim was just lucky to survive from. Some failed crimes failed because of heroic efforts to stop it. In any case it is possible to judge on a case by case basis from what happened during the crime whether it was done ruthlessly or not independent of whether or not the crime succeeded. We already do this to an extent. There is 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd degree murder, and 4th degree murder. 1st degree is planned upon, and so is the most ruthless. 2nd degree is out of angry. 3rd degree was killing from indifference or negligence. 4th degree is killing by an accomplice. In addition the use of a firearm often weighs in to sentencing in many criminal cases as it indicates more ruthlessness.

Differentiating based on success is imprecise, so we should use more precise means of measuring ruthlessness when sentencing. Factoring in whether and what weapons were used, the extent of planning and the lengths the criminal was willing to go to see it done, and whether there is any history of previous criminal offenses would be more reliable than considering whether the crime in question failed or succeeded. People should not be getting lighter sentences just because their intended victim was lucky.


Thanks a lot to MastuDbtor for his post.

Rather than going for headings like 'Rebuttal to Rebuttal Argument #2 & Counter-Rebuttal 1st Rebuttal', it will be better if discuss the issues topic by topic. I hope it will make the debates easier to follow.

==Burden of Proof==

Let me begin the post by again reminding my opponent and the voters about the burden of proof. It is my opponent’s task to present evidence that attempted crimes should be treated in exactly the same way as successful crime. If he fails to meet this requirement - I win by default. My task is to just show that his case is not water-tight. All that I need to do is to cast reasonable doubt on his arguments.

Till now, my opponent's case consists only of some unsubstantiated assertions. Unless he does present some evidence to back up his claims, I am heading for a win by default.


I presented evidence that retribution is an integral part of justice. I presented evidence from The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, work of philosophers like Emmanuel Kant, Judgments of The Supreme Court of United States of America and also the Indian Penal Code, which is the bedrock of Indian judicial system. I thought I had prepared a foolproof case covering all eventualities. And yet I was simply not prepared for my opponent’s line of attack. He simply dismissed all these sources as IRRATIONAL and he insists that all of them should be 'consigned to the history books'. I am not sure whether I should list my reaction as 'amazed' or 'amused'.

Retribution has to be integral part of any 'just' judicial and criminal system. The criminal has violated certain rights of the victim. In such a case, it is the task of the system to ensure that the perpetrators do not go unpunished. The criminal should never gain from his actions but rather should be made to face the consequences of what he has done. Unless this happens, victims (relatives in case of murders) will never get a sense of closure and would consider the system to be unjust. People have pointed out that the retribution is the only guaranteed result of punishment [1].

Many crimes (especially murder) cannot be undone. This is a drawback of any system - whether based on retribution or not.

My opponent claims that retribution is just a fancy term for revenge. I agree. He goes on to point out what will happen in the society if everybody starts taking revenge. He is clearly confused between revenge taken by individual and retribution as one of the component of a judicial system. Individual actions will indeed destabilize the society as they will be based on emotions more than evidence and can easily get out of hand. However a judicial system awards a punishment only in case the crime is clearly proved. A strong criminal and judicial system guarantees that the poorest and weakest can take revenge (get justice) against the mighty and powerful. It can be argued that if retribution is not a component of judicial system then vigilante justice would be justified.

Pro has asserted that 'rationality' ignores sunken cost. This is a concept valid in the world of business and finance. People who have died and people who undergo trauma as a result of crime are not 'sunken cost'. Human justice and human emotions are not business investments, where you analyze which option will give you the maximum returns in purely financial terms.

My opponent has conceded (by dropping the argument) that retribution entails successful criminals should be given bigger punishment.


I will have to remind Pro that it is his task to present evidence.

I agree that the source I presented talked about people who committed crime and were not caught the first time. However it can be generalized to say that a person who is partially successful is more likely to repeat the crime than someone who failed completely. As far as I am concerned, indicatory evidence is more than what is needed. I would have been successful even without it by casting doubts on any study he presented. He has not presented any evidence whatsoever.

Consider the following two scenarios:
1. A criminal commits crime and succeeds, is arrested, punished and released. As a result of his initial success, he commits more crime.

My opponent admits that this is possible. If he admits it to be possible, he has to explain why it should not be considered as part of the punishment process.

2. A criminal commits crime and fails, is arrested, punished and released. He is motivated by failure to commit the crime again.

I would further like to ask my opponent, which scenario is more likely. I would like to submit that the first one appears more likely than the second. If my opponent disagrees, it is his burden to provide the evidence. In the second case, the criminal is also more likely to be caught. My opponent thinks that the second criminal might learn from other inmates in prison. This is a problem with the prison system which is irrelevant to this debate.


My argument about jumping red-lights was not a straw-man. It was an example to prove that deterrence is not the ONLY goal of criminal system. It is a point he has tacitly conceded by explaining in his own way how 'harms' of such a system are more than the 'good'. My argument was that deterrence alone is not sufficient as argument for giving same punishment to both kinds of criminals. The argument is extended.


Pro attempts a straw-man of his own here. We have agreed in the beginning that several factors may be considered while awarding sentence. He acknowledges that success may have something to do with ruthlessness. But he lists other factors which could indicate ruthlessness. I am not against considering other factors. What the Pro needs to explain is why success of the crime should not be considered as criteria, when it is acknowledged that the ruthlessness does affect outcome of crime.

It is possible that in a particular case, the criminal planned a crime for a long time with use if firearms. And yet when the time arrived, he hesitated a bit, giving a chance to victim to fight back or escape. None of the factors my opponent has listed covers this kind of hesitation. This possibility further strengthens my argument that success of crime should be considered as a factor. Again, I am not arguing that this should be the only criteria.

At the risk of repeating myself for the Nth time, let me repeat. It is the burden of Pro to provide evidence that it is equally difficult to rehabilitate a successful and unsuccessful criminal.

I am looking forward to evidence from my esteemed opponent.


Debate Round No. 2



I dismissed them, because this is an "Appeal to authority" fallacy. Just listing people, organizations, and codes agreeing with retribution does not suffice as evidence that it is a legitimate goal of justice, since human beings(which are part of organizations and which write codes) are fallible. Citing them by explaining the arguments they used on the other hand would be evidence.

I see that in the new round Con has elaborated an argument so I will address it.

That the victims will never get a sense of closure is an argument that could just as easily be applied to non-criminal cases. The same logic that says a criminal must be punished to bring the victims or relatives "closure" would say that it's appropriate for a husband to retaliate to his wife's cheating by cheating on her, or for someone to retaliate against rumor-mongerers by in turn spreading rumors about them.

And of course in the criminal justice system it's rarely tit-for-tat(nor should it be) as punishments are rarely truly the same as the crime so it would also be analogous to "get even" in a way different from what the other person does. Take for example someone insults someone at a bar, rather than "getting even" with another insult sometimes people throw punches.

Most people would not consider these examples to be just and would consider someone who walks away and does not seek to do harm to a person in retaliation for their act to be more just.

Do these people get hurt by "not getting a sense of closure"? No, because they let it go. As hard as it can be sometimes when a person is hurt they still have a choice about how to deal with the aftermath. This choice exists regardless of what happens to the criminal.

Using retribution as a factor encourages a mindset that only by causing pain can you move on from an act they committed against you on all levels of society. Even the way Con words his justification that "victims...will never get a sense of closure" shows this attitude, worded as if it is inevitable that the victims will not move on without pain being inflicted.

This does not mean we should not have a criminal justice system, but that the harm inflicted on people in the criminal justice system is a necessary evil for the public good as without it some people would have no reason to refrain from committing crime and some dangerous people would be out committing more harm to society.

Con goes on to claim that the reason retribution is acceptable but revenge is not is because retribution is only metted out by the judicial system when a crime is clearly proven. He also says if retribution wasn't factored in vigilanteism would be justified. The logic of this is that revenge is perfectly OK morally in non-criminal cases since the state isn't doing anything about it, at the very least moral if you know 100% that the person did it or that someone demonstrates that they did something to you.


Con claims rationality is valid in business and finance. True, but it is also valid and often spoken of in philosophy, political and social sciences and criminal justice.

Con seems to misunderstand rationality. Rationality is NOT purely financial. While in business it's common practice only to apply rationality to the goal of maximizing profits that's because that's what businesses are set up to do. However, regardless of what is being measured counting "sunken costs" does not make rational sense.

Law and justice of all things should be determined through the use of reason. Leaving something so vital to whim is ridiculous.

Punishing for the sake of revenge harms one party and helps none. Something that does no good for anybody can not be good for "justice". To maximize justice we must strive to maximize the good for both the collective and individuals. Even if someone personally feels they need revenge, validating that viewpoint does more harm to that individual than good as it promotes immoral behavior(that of revenge-seeking) and hence degrades the person's moral character.


Con's generalization does not logically follow. A person who is caught after successfully committing a crime is not going to think to themselves "that was easy", to paraphrase the quote cited as a reason for repeat attempts in the source. The source is even more distant from that scenario than Con implied in the last round. The document is not only talking about people who committed more than one crime, but more than one crime against the same victims.

Con goes on to present that his personal opinion that scenario #1 is more likely than scenario #2 based on nothing more than "appearance". A person's subjective judgement of how something "appears" is not sound evidence, especially since he does not elaborate on why it "appears" to be so. To me it appears the other way around, but I can actually explain this appearance.

1. Some convicts change their ways.
2. Some convicts do not change their ways.

Who is more likely to change their ways someone who failed and so doesn't have a concrete experience of actually committing the act and experiencing not just the legal penalty but the moral and emotional penalties of witnessing the harm done or someone who succeeded and knows first hand how horrible their crime is?

Now consider who is more likely to have their pride hurt by the whole experience, someone who succeeds in committing a crime or someone who fails? Pride could motivate another attempt.

Status is closely linked to issues of pride, and committing crimes due to social status or peer pressure is a common reason as indicated by "Motivations For Violent Crime Among Incarcerated Adults: A Consideration of Reinforcement Processes".

"Peer Pressure/Group Behavior" accounted for 49% of assaults, 35% of rapes, 22% of robbery, 16% of burglary, and 18% of shoplifting. "The difficulty or challenge", which may seem higher after having an experience of trying yet failing was 34%, 62%, 46%, 38%, and 36%, respectively.

Furthermore, while "ease" is definitely a motivating factor having failed before is not going to stop someone from noticing if a crime seems to be "easy".


If Con was trying to prove that deterrence is not the ONLY goal of the criminal system he misread my arguments. I never said deterrence is or should be the ONLY goal of the criminal system. I also included incapacitation and rehabilitation. As for considering "harms" to the criminal, that's a limiting factor in how far the criminal justice system should go in punishment. Sentencing attempted crimes the same as successful ones does not do any criminal any disproportionate harm.


"It is the burden of Pro to provide evidence that it is equally difficult to rehabilitate a successful and unsuccessful criminal."

That would be the case ONLY if that was essential to my main argument, and it is NOT.

I concede that ON AVERAGE there could easily be a difference in the difficulty of rehabilitating a successful or unsuccessful criminal.

BUT we have DETAILS. Why rely on generalities when you can use details and get more precise justice? Correlation does not mean causation. Even if successful criminals did tend to be harder to rehabilitate that would not mean their success itself caused it to be harder. Even Con in his argument points out that a person might succeed in their crime due to their ruthlessness in committing it or fail due to lack of ruthlessness, and that ruthlessness might show a person is harder to rehabilitate. Simply succeeding does NOT indicate that one was ruthless. A person might hesitate and still succeed. Similarly, failing does NOT prove lack of ruthlessness.

Ruthlessness can be measured more directly. We do NOT have to rely on mere correlations, and so we shouldn't. We can look at all the facts of the crime itself in detail. Did the criminal slow down at all in his commission of the crime or was he going fast? Did he use weapons? In what ways?


Many thanks to MasturDbtor for his post.

Let us move directly to the arguments


My opponent insists my arguments consisted of appeal to authority fallacy. I disagree. I actually used appeal to AUTHORITIES. And let us list the authorities which agreed with my contention
1. The Holy Bible
2. The Holy Quran
3. Philosophers like Emmanuel Kant
4. Judgement of US Supreme Court
5. The India Penal Code

Appeal to authority is a fallacy in formal logic. Just because an authority says so, does not mean it is correct. It is possible for authorities to be wrong.

On other hand it is considered a part of informal logic [1]. So while it is possible that all the authorities are wrong - it is not very likely. In other words - if an argument is against the position of all authorities, it should be treated as an extraordinary claim. Such claims should be rejected as improbable unless some very strong evidence is presented.

My opponent says
"I see that in the new round Con has elaborated an argument so I will address it."

The burden to prove your extra-ordinary claim is on you. Why did you expect me to present the arguments?

The response is a set of elaborate straw-man attacks.

1. Since we are talking about criminal cases - what happens in civil cases is irrelevant to this debate. My opponent believes husband cheating as a response to cheating by wife counts as revenge. I will resist my temptation to comment, as it is irrelevant.

2. I am talking about responsibilities of legal system. What happens in bar-fights is irrelevant - unless it turns up before court.

3. I did not say, I support vigilante action if the state fails. I said, "It can be argued that if retribution is not a component of judicial system then vigilante justice would be justified". I do not intend to defend this position in this debate. However I will just note that ignoring rights of emotions of victims can lead to whole system of justice coming under attack.

I did say that situation will not go out of hand in court administered retribution as the crime has to be proved clearly before any punishment is meted out. My opponent conceded this point by dropping the argument.

In a criminal trial, apart from the offender, the victim (relatives in case of murder) too has to be considered. In fact, the victim is more important than the offender. Some victims may be able to move on. Others may not find it so simple. In some cases, complete closure may never be possible. Proper punishment to offenders will definitely help in the process. This factor has to be considered while awarding sentence.

In unsuccessful crime, victims do not face that kind of problem. So a reduction in punishment may be applicable (while keeping other factors in mind)


I said,
"Pro has asserted that 'rationality' ignores sunken cost. This is a concept valid in the world of business and finance. People who have died and people who undergo trauma as a result of crime are not 'sunken cost'. Human justice and human emotions are not business investments, where you analyze which option will give you the maximum returns in purely financial terms."

Pro started a new section stating that I do not believe that rationality is applicable human emotions. What I said was the concept of 'sunken cost' is not applicable to human emotions.

When we deal with human beings - such as victims of crimes - we have to deal with their emotions as well. I would like Pro to explain whether he considers these emotions as 'whims'? Does he consider the loss incurred by the victims as sunken cost? Does he consider the victims and the damage done to them to be irrelevant to criminal trials? Is this what he understands from rationality?


Pro has provided an excellent source which analyses the motivations for five types of crime (Shoplifting, burglary, robbery, rape and assault). Among the factors discussed are 'Peer Pressure/Group Behavior', 'the difficulty or challenge', 'Easy opportunity, had the chance to do it' among many others. It is an in depth study and the Pro has tried to draw few quick conclusions from the first table. The conclusions he has drawn are actually disproved by the paper, as I will explain below.

1. Pro has argued that unsuccessful criminal will have 'more peer pressure' and will face more 'The Difficulty or challenge'. The argument is non sequitur. What is also possible is that the successful criminal would go for more difficult and challenging crimes and may face more peer pressure as he has been successful in past. We can also say that successful criminals will locate more opportunity because of their past success.

2. Pro has referred to raw data. The researchers have done lots of analysis to classify and analyze motivations. Peer pressure and difficulty are considered as component of 'Sensation/Thrill'. On other hand ‘easy opportunity’ is classified as 'Opportunity'. Final conclusions have been presented in table 7. In all five types of crimes, opportunity has turned out to be a bigger motivation that sensation/thrill.

The study definitely proves that opportunity is bigger motivator for crime than sensation or thrill (5-0 for opportunity!) A successful criminal is more likely to spot opportunities. It follows then that the successful criminal is more motivated to repeat the crime. Incapacitation demands he should get a bigger punishment.


Sentencing attempted criminals does harm the criminal. If the punishment is same as for successful criminals, the harm may be considered as disproportionate as no crime has actually been committed.


Pro has admitted that,

"I concede that ON AVERAGE there could easily be a difference in the difficulty of rehabilitating a successful or unsuccessful criminal."

Then it follows that ON AVERAGE successful criminals should get more punishment than unsuccessful criminals.

Pro goes on to demand why we should RELY on success of crime. I am not asking for anyone to rely on it. I only want it to be considered as one of the factors. And the reason it should be considered as factor is that on average there is difference in difficulty of rehabilitating a successful and unsuccessful criminal.

I would like to point out that I win this debate even if I can prove for a minor case that successful and unsuccessful criminals should be treated differently.

MasturDbtor has claimed that rehabilitation was not one of his main points. He has the burden of proving each of his point and till now he has not proved any. We wonder exactly what his main point is.

Looking forward to main points from my esteemed opponent...

[1] and

Debate Round No. 3


Con says that while it is possible for the authorities to be wrong it is not very likely. Using authorities as evidence is valid if it is used to back up arguments presented by them. "So-and-so said so" is a statement of fact about something a person said and not something one can reasonably argue against other than "they might not be right", which is a valid argument since nobody is right 100% of the time. If Con were to elaborate the arguments these authorities use to defend their position then I would have something to refute.

As it is while Con has not presented the actual reasoning used by these authorities I can still show good reasons to doubt them.
The Bible and the Quran are religious documents. There are many religions with many different rules and ideas. No religion has ever been proven by science. In fact scientific evidence has already disproven the creation myths of the Bible and the Quran.
Furthermore, the Constitution, beginning of the 1st amendment reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

So "religious authorities" are irrelevant to what law should be.

It was one of Kant's opinions that a person asked by a would-be-murderer where to find his intended victim should "tell the truth", because "truth" should be a "universal law". This is not to say Kant was wrong about everything, but that "Kant said so" is not a good reason to support or oppose something.

The Supreme Court has changed its mind on many issues. Laws against anti-war speech used to be upheld, but are not anymore. Furthermore, the Supreme Court deals with issues of constitutionality. Even if retribution is constitutionally allowed it is still not constitutionally required. There are many things the government can do constitutionally. It doesn't make them good ideas.

India does not exactly have a spotless record on human rights. This is enough to cast doubts on what ever opinions are expressed within its penal code.

As Con says we are talking about the legal system. However, Con seems to be implying that legal situations exist in some moral limbo where ordinary moral reasoning does not apply. As legal situations likewise involve the actions of human beings moral reasoning valid for other situations can be applied to it as long as we take into account the concrete differences between the situations.

Retribution involves harming a person for no reason other than that they had committed a "harm"(called a crime) as defined by law.
The only differences between this and the sort of revenge people take out against each other all the time is 1. the # of people & resources that work to carry out retribution 2. the deliberative process to make sure they got the right person. 3. Common agreement-The court system alone decides whether retribution will take place, preventing disagreements and more conflicts over it in the future. If it is the 2nd & 3rd differences that makes retribution moral then the inescapable conclusion would be that as long as you make sure you are certain the person did it and as long as any disagreements are resolved as to the person's guilt revenge is morally acceptable. So if it was something like cheating and just between you and that person and you were certain(stumbled upon it) this system of morality would give you the green light to go cheat on them in return for revenge.

Revenge no matter how much social agreement can be reached on it and no matter how much you make sure you got the right person is immoral & only promotes more revenge.

Revenge does not make emotions go away. A murderers victim is dead, no sentence will change that. Its not that emotions are irrelevant. Emotions have values that can be considered when weighing positives and negatives. BUT this consideration extends to the impact an action may have on emotions not what the "emotions" make us feel like doing but what'll yield the best emotions in the end. Just because we feel like hurting a criminal doesnt mean doing so will make it better. "Emotional damages" can make things better but this is handled in civil courts where the burden or proof is even lower than criminal courts.

"A successful criminal is more likely to spot opportunities"

This isnt evidence, but Con's opinion that a successful criminal is more likely to spot opportunities.

The most important thing for a criminal is whether or not they avoid getting caught. Failing is not the same as getting caught nor is succeeding the same as avoiding it. A person who is committing his 1st crime, succeeds & gets caught'll be more likely to be deterred in the future compared to someone who gets caught attempting a crime but who had previously gotten away with various attempts and successes.

Punishment harms the criminal. However, the harm should not be the point itself. That is just revenge. The important thing is the harm is not disproportionate to the harm society is trying to prevent(the reattempt at the crime).

With selective quoting Con completely ignores my argument about how since it is NOT necessary for us to rely on generalizations we should rely on more specific criteria than the "success or failure".

Even if on average a failed criminal is easier to rehabilitate than a successful criminal that is still not evidence that is is "Because" the criminal had failed. Con has presented no evidence for how failing in and of itself would cause a person to be easier to be rehabilitated. Con only brought up how a more ruthless person may be more likely to succeed in carrying out the crime in which case it is not the "success" that causes the person to be harder to rehabilitate, it is his ruthless attitude.

Taking into considering success v. failure would mean punishing the successful worse regardless of whether they had been more ruthless. So, it's an inefficient way of sentencing. It's better to rely on a case-by-case basis of how ruthless the crime was. When examining the facts of a crime it's easy to tell whether it was done ruthlessly or not without ever having to factor in success or failure.

Even if generally people who are more ruthless tend to be successful cases that are the exception to a general rule should never be treated the same way as the general rule if it can be helped & in this case it can be helped.

If successful criminals tend to have been more ruthless and so tend to be sentenced higher AS AN INDIRECT RESULT of measuring the ruthlessness then I don't disagree with this statement. However, the debate is about whether the law should distinguish between success and failure or not, not whether we should have laws that have an incidental effect of leading to successful criminals getting higher sentences on average. Comparing two individual cases where the ruthlessness is the same but one succeeded and another failed there is no good reason to punish them differently.

Men by having a more aggressive nature and because of culture are more likely to be ruthless BUT that does not mean that the law should take into consideration gender, because its not gender itself that makes it harder to rehabilitate and the factor that does make it harder(ruthlessness) can be measured independently.

I had said:

""It is the burden of Pro to provide evidence that it is equally difficult to rehabilitate a successful and unsuccessful criminal."

That would be the case ONLY if that was essential to my main argument, and it is NOT."

He then says "MasturDbtor has claimed that rehabilitation was not one of his main points."
I was only saying that it is NOT necessary for it be equally difficult on average, only that there is nothing about success or failure in and of itself(by direct result, not by correlation with another factor(ruthlessness) that can simply be measured independently) that would make it more or less difficult. I did NOT say "rehabilitation" was not one of my main points, just that it is was NOT my point in the way that Con had reworded it.


Thanks to MasturDbtor for his response.

For some reason my opponent has not classified his arguments into sections, the way we were doing from the starting. It makes it slightly difficult to follow his arguments. I will continue with the sectioning, adding a few points. I will do my best to classify his arguments.

Absence of proper classification makes it difficult to spot how many of my arguments he has dropped and thereby conceded. Of course, I will do my best to help the voters.


Pro has dropped my argument that Argument from authority is essential part of informal logic.

Pro has dropped my argument that since his arguments are against all authorities, they should be considered as extraordinary.

Pro has ignored my argument that the burden of proof is on him.

Rather, Pro has tried to discredit ALL the authorities I presented!

It is not my intention to defend The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, The US Supreme Court and The Indian Penal Code in a single debate. There are many people who do not consider one or more than one of these authorities to be perfect. However, what everyone agrees is that these books are or have been the basis of judicial system in different parts of the world over different time periods. So as far as the judicial system is concerned, they are the appropriate authorities. I included Kant as he is considered as one of the foremost philosopher who deliberated upon this subject using logic.

Pro says,

"Con seems to be implying that legal situations exist in some moral limbo where ordinary moral reasoning does not apply."

Legal situation do not exist in 'Limbo'. However that is a problem for you. As the major legal systems have the concept of retribution, it stands to reason that there must be some compelling reason behind it. That makes your argument extraordinary unless you can present some very strong reason in support of your position.

Incidentally, apart from presenting the authorities, I have presented those reasons as well.


It was Pro's burden to prove his extra-ordinary claim as to why retribution should not be part of legal system. Rather I presented the reasons why it should be part of the system. It should be the part of the system so that the criminal, who has inflicted some harm on the victim, should not escape without a proportionate punishment. If this is not ensured, it will be unfair and unjust to the victim. And as I said earlier the victim is important to the judicial system.

Let us look at the Pro's objection:

1. Sunken Cost: As I explained, victims of violent crimes cannot be considered as sunken cost.

2. Things going out of hand: I had explained this will not happen if the punishment is meted out through the court after due scrutiny of evidence.

Pro has also presented some straw-man arguments as objection:

1. Husband, Wife, Cheating: This is a civil case. This debate is about criminal law system, not about civil law system. This was stated by you in the OP. Hence, it is irrelevant to this debate.

2. Emotions should be handled in civil courts: So apart from the main criminal trial, we should also have a civil trial, where emotions can be considered? Or should the harm suffered by the victims ignored completely in criminal trials?

Pro has dropped my argument that proper punishment will help in the recovery process for victims.

The alternative to retributive justice is restorative justice [1]. In this system, the rights of the victims are recognized the priority of the court is to undo the effects of crime. In this system also, successful and unsuccessful criminals would be treated differently, because in unsuccessful crimes, no harm has been done to the victim.


Pro has dropped my argument that opportunity is more important for criminals than sensation.

It is correct that it is my opinion that successful criminals will spot more opportunities. However it is not a baseless opinion. It stands to reason that a criminal who has executed a successful crime in the past is more likely to spot if the opportunity arises again. A criminal who failed earlier is likely to be deterred by his failure.

In this case, both of criminals have been apprehended. So this factor should not make a difference between the two.


Pro has dropped it completely.


Pro accuses me of selective quoting. Here is what he had said.

"I concede that ON AVERAGE there could easily be a difference in the difficulty of rehabilitating a successful or unsuccessful criminal."

Later on I had also quoted him.

"That would be the case ONLY if that was essential to my main argument, and it is NOT."

I did change, 'essential to my main argument' to 'main point'. I apologise, if it changed the meaning of his statement in any way. But I don't think so.

If it is not essential to his main argument, two natural questions arise.

1. What are his main arguments?

2. And if this is not his main argument, why does he spend half of his post talking about it?

No matter how small this point is according to my opponent, if I can prove that successful and unsuccessful criminals respond differently to rehabilitation in general, then I win the whole debate. I do not need to prove it - as my opponent has already conceded it.

Pro tries to argue that ruthlessness is better criteria than success or failure of crime. I do not have any objection to using ruthlessness as a measure. But he needs to explain why success and failure should not be considered as criteria in addition to ruthlessness when he concedes that there is a direct correlation between success of crime and rehabilitation requirements.

My opponent has also talked about correlation vs. causation. As far as rehabilitation is concerned, strong correlation has to be considered while passing the sentence. Rehabilitation needs of women are different from men. This fact has to be considered while sentencing. Of course, rehabilitation is not the only criteria. Other factors (like retribution) have to be considered as well.


I have not yet understood the difference between 'essential to my arguments' and 'main point'. So while my opponent explains the difference and presents his essential arguments, I will argue the voters to VOTE CON.


Debate Round No. 4


MasturDbtor forfeited this round.


My esteemed opponent has forfeited the final round - which is unfortunate. A 5 round debate, requires considerable effort and he has completed 4 rounds but skipped the final round. It is very likely this was not intentional and he was caught up in some pressing engagement. That can happen to anyone.

I am sure the forfeit can be explained by some 'RATIONAL' reason!

Extending all my arguments, I will quickly summarise and conclude.


The difference between successful crime and unsuccessful crime is that in successful crime some wrong has been committed to the victim. This is the main reason why the treatment of successful and unsuccessful crime has to be different.

The difference may be because justice demands retribution. I established the retributive system of justice by reference to various appropriate authorities. I also gave rational reasons as to why retribution in some form is integral to judicial system.

The rights of victims are given full importance in restorative system of justice as well. Full effort is made to undo the wrong committed to the victim up to the extent possible. This again means that the approach has to be completely different.

There are other minor reasons why successful criminals should be given heavier sentence. Successful criminal have already committed the crime once. This means they are more experienced. It can be argued that in general an experienced criminal will spot more opportunities. And opportunity has been established as a major motivator of crime. It may be suitable to give bigger punishment to successful criminal so as to incapacitate him.

Pro conceded that it may be inferred that it will be more difficult to rehabilitate successful criminal. And that gives you yet another reason why successful criminals should be given stronger punishment.

Vote CON


Many thanks to MasturDbtor for debating this issue with me. I wish him the best of luck for his future debates at DDO.

Debate Round No. 5
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
"I may not have word-for-word challenged ..."

Then I am justified in calling you out. After all I am debating you!

It is possible to classify your comment about 'limbo' either way. You did not put the topic headings. You can check.

I also noticed while going through it again, that I made a wrong claim about you dropping deterrence argument. The response was only two lines, I made a genuine mistake due to absence of headings ...

You can of course think about the ways you could have debated better. I am sure they will help in you in next debates. I would love to debate you again in future.

Best of Luck!
Posted by MasturDbtor 5 years ago
Yes I agree- voters don't consider these discussion comments.

I did not think of civil trials just of a spouse angry about being cheated on who didn't bother with the court system. I did also include an example of rumor-mongering which would normally not even be triable in civil law(There's libel and slander but you got to have some evidence, and ordinary rumor-mongering is unlikely to catch the court's interest).

There were many times where I did NOT drop an argument yet you claimed that I did. For example, I never dropped the argument about appeal to authority being part of informal logic. I may not have word-for-word challenged the relevance of that argument but it is clearly challenged in my post concerning whether authority by itself is sufficient evidence.

You even took details from one argument and lumped it into a previous one. My "Limbo" comment was not part of my argument about authority it was part of the next argument. My point with that comment is since human action is subject to morality and since law involves human action saying it does not apply because it does not involve criminal law makes no sense. If we set criminal law morally apart from everything else it then becomes impossible to make objective moral judgements on how criminal law ought to be exercised.

Too late now but I thought of a less wordy way to put my argument about why even if there is a general correlation that does not justify different treatment. Simply put-"When it is avoidable it is not fair to treat an exception the same as the general rule." If the reasons for a correlation can be quantified and measured independently in every single individual case(which I argued for by way of devising ways to measure ruthlessness) that removes any reason to differentiate based on that correlation.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
Incidentally, while I have no problems in debating in threads, voters are not supposed to consider the discussion in threads for casting votes. Just thought, I would let you know.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
It is OK in my books if you forfeit one round in a 5 round debate. I almost forfeited one round myself. It is unfortunate you missed the last round - which meant you were not able to conclude properly.

Having said that, the charge of ignoring your argument sounds funny. You have been dropping arguments after another from the beginning, even after I highlighted it. I assume that you are aware that dropped arguments are counted as conceded.

I was talking about retribution as a component of criminal justice system. Your husband-wife cheating problem is civil, and you are not talking about revenge on its own, without reference to judicial system. So your argument was irrelevant. And I discussed this in R3 as well as R4.

Your extrapolation is faulty. But I did not discuss that since it was irrelevant.

You said:
"It was also pretty obvious that I was arguing that whether or not there is a difference ALL OTHER THINGS EQUAL was really what was important to my argument"

Do show me where you said this. Had you said this, I would have addressed it. You merely talked about measuring ruthlessness using some other scale. I admit, I did highlight part of your argument. However, I did not distort it in anyway.
Posted by MasturDbtor 5 years ago
In my arguments I made it very obvious, even if I did NOT specifically word it as such that I was arguing that ALL OTHER THINGS EQUAL there is not reason to think there would be any difference between the two in rehabilitation. It was also pretty obvious that I was arguing that whether or not there is a difference ALL OTHER THINGS EQUAL was really what was important to my argument rather than based off of generalizations as Con attested. I thought anyone who would sit and read the entire thing(perhaps Con didn't) would've realized that was what I was getting. Clearly if I quote an entire sentence and say it is not essential I'm talking about the whole sentence with every detail of the sentence's meaning NOT being essential, NOT that a generalization(rehabilitation) of the sentence is not essential so it leaves room for the possibility that "rehabilitation" is essential to my arguments JUST NOT in the specific way Con had worded that sentence. Anybody can see that. Rather than addressing the argument Con just pretended not to understand.
Posted by MasturDbtor 5 years ago
Things sometimes come up. But a few things I got to point out:

There was a ton of selective quoting you used.

It looks almost as though you only read half of most of my arguments and then replied to the easier parts. Some of your arguments only make sense if you only read the first few sentences or paragraphs and then ignore the rest of the details, such as after I had addressed your accusation that I was making a strawman argument by clearly pointing out that morality applies to ALL situationsso it is fair to extrapolate what is moral in legal circumstances from ordinary ones (plus I never said anything about the husband and wife going to court over the cheating). The way you responded sounded as though you didn't even read that part.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
Managed. With few hours remaining :)
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
@ MasturDbtor

I have an incredibly busy day ahead. My response will be slightly delayed. I am sorry for the inconvenience.
Posted by baggins 5 years ago
It is an intresting topic. Let us hope we are able to do justice to it.
Posted by Korashk 5 years ago
Interesting topic. I've had thoughts about this in the past. Not sure where exactly I stand.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con pressed the Pro's arguments successfully and proved his position as greater.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:24 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro starts off with a very narrow argument and is on the defensive almost immediately instead of pressing the argument. He also brings in odd lines of argument such as comparisons to civil court and gets called on it immediately. However he does make a strong argument against the "these people agree with me" by Con so the debate is not totally lopsided. However I don't think he could have sustained the BoP even with a final. 4:2 Con.