Do you think biological factors such as genetics, hormones, or intellectual ability should be factored in when determining guilt or innocence, and to what extent?

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This question is asking students to reflect on their own personal beliefs. There are really no right or wrong answers, but instead you should think about the different situations which might occur and the general principles on which you base your decisions.

One important distinction here is the question of guilt or innocence versus sentencing. Someone might be judged guilty of a crime but given harsher or lighter sentences dependent on biological or hormonal factors.

One biological factor the United States justice system takes into account is age, with juveniles treated differently than adults. One could argue that intellectual age is just as important as biological age, and that the principle behind the juvenile justice system is that a person must be capable of understanding that an act is wrong to be judged guilty. This principle might apply to those with diminished mental capacity as well.

The next issue one should address is the purpose of the justice system. If the main goal is public safety, then one should take into account whether biological or intellectual factors affect the probability of someone re-offending or the danger the person poses to self or others. Someone with severe mental health issues, for example, might need to be permanently placed in a mental health facility to guarantee that safety, but is not precisely guilty in the same way as someone who does not have mental health issues but deliberately and knowingly commits a crime.

Although genetic factors may well predispose people to commit crimes, many people with those genetic factors do not become criminals. The main issue one might consider is not guilt in some metaphysical sense, which cannot be determined objectively, but the degree to which a person genetically or biologically predisposed to being, for example, whether a psychopath or pedophile who has committed a crime is likely to be rehabilitated or is likely to commit other crimes.

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