Istanbul Law Review
Unpunishable Prior ActsErkan Sarıtaş
The principle in criminal law is that each act an offender commits shall be treated separately with regard to sanctions. In this context, the punishment of an act as a rule does not affect the criminal liability arising from another action the same offender might have performed prior to or after that action. In some cases, however, a very close relationship exists among multiple acts the same offender has committed consecutively. This relationship becomes more visible when the offender in particular violates the same or similar legal values with acts that are committed in the same context and become more and more serious. In terms of such cases, the concept of unpunishable prior acts has been put forward in the legal doctrine within the framework of the principles of the ideal concurrence of offenses. Accordingly, even if multiple acts are found to have been committed by the same offender, the offender is punished only for the posterior act under certain conditions. This concept has settled into the legal doctrine over time and is seen to be frequently referred to in high court decisions. However, the legal nature and scope of this concept is quite controversial in the legal doctrine, and the specific conditions have also not been fully clarified in the high court’s decisions. This study discusses the scope, conditions, and legal consequences of the concept of unpunishable prior acts within the framework of the discussions with regard to legal doctrine and high court decisions.
Cezalandırılmayan Önceki HareketlerErkan Sarıtaş
Ceza hukukunda kural, failin işlediği birden fazla fiilden her birinin, yaptırım açısından diğerlerinden ayrı olarak ele alınmasıdır. Bu çerçevede bir fiilin ceza yaptırımı ile karşılanması, kural olarak, aynı fail tarafından daha önce veya daha sonra gerçekleştirilen başka bir fiilin meydana getireceği ceza sorumluluğunu etkilemez. Öte yandan bazı hallerde, aynı fail tarafından art arda icra edilen birden fazla fiilin arasında çok yakın bir ilişki söz konusu olabilmektedir ve bu ilişki, özellikle failin aynı bağlamda işlediği ve giderek ağırlaşan nitelikte fiillerle, aynı ya da birbirine yakın hukuki değerleri ihlal ettiği durumlarda daha da görünür hale gelmektedir. Bu gibi haller açısından doktrinde, normların görünüşte içtimaı ilkeleri çerçevesinde ‘cezalandırılmayan önceki hareketler’ kurumu ortaya atılmıştır. Buna göre aynı fail tarafından birden fazla fiil icra edilmiş olsa dahi belli şartların gerçekleşmesi halinde, yalnızca sonraki fiili nedeniyle ceza yaptırımı tatbik edilecek olan faile, ayrıca bir de önceki fiili ya da fiilleri nedeniyle ceza verilmeyecektir. Nitekim bu kurum zamanla doktrinde yerleştiği gibi yüksek mahkeme kararlarında da sık sık bu kuruma atıf yapıldığı görülmektedir. Bununla birlikte bu kavramın hukuki niteliği ve buna bağlı olarak kapsamı doktrinde oldukça tartışmalı olduğu gibi hangi şartların gerçekleşmesi halinde cezalandırılmayan önceki hareketlerden söz edilebileceği meselesi de yüksek mahkeme kararlarında tam olarak açıklığa kavuşturulmuş değildir. Bu kapsamda, bu çalışmada doktrinde tartışmalar ve mahkeme içtihatları çerçevesinde, cezalandırılmayan önceki hareketler kavramının kapsamı, koşulları ve hukuki sonuçları ele alınmaktadır.
As a rule in criminal law, each act that constitutes a crime is punished independently. In this context, the punishment of an act as a rule does not affect the criminal liability arising from another action the same offender performed prior to or after that act. In some cases, however, a very close relationship exists between more than one action committed consecutively by the same offender. This relationship becomes more visible when the offender in particular violates the same or similar legal values with acts that are committed in the same context and that become more and more serious. In such cases, legal doctrine states that the offender should be punished only for their posterior act, and this has given rise to the concept of unpunishable prior acts. Which legal basis this concept is based on is a highly controversial issue. The conclusions from this discussion aim to determine the conditions and scope of this concept.
This study will approach the concept of unpunishable prior acts as well as its legal foundations, conditions, and consequences. In this context, the doctrine must first be said to consider this concept mostly within the scope of the principles of ideal concurrence of offenses (or improper joinder of offenses). However, under which principle of the ideal concurrence of offenses this concept should be addressed is controversial. While some authors have tried to explain the concept according to the principle of subsidiarity, others have attempted to explain it according to the principle of consumption. Some authors have also made a distinction and referred to both principles in terms of acceptable categories.
Despite multiple acts being found under the concept of unpunishable previous acts, each of which gives rise to a different crime, close links exist among them. This is because these acts are committed under the same context, against the same victim, and on the same subject while violating the same (or another closely related) legal value. Thus, although multiple acts are found, each of which constitutes a crime, these acts are the subject of a single normative-social valuelessness judgment due to the connections among them. Within the framework of this valuelessness judgment, the offender is punished only for the more severe posterior act, and as such, punishment for prior acts becomes unnecessary. For this reason, the norm violated by the posterior offense exhausts the previous one. In this respect and according to this study’s opinion, unpunishable previous acts are based on the principle of consumption.
This legal basis also establishes the circumstances under which previous actions cannot be punished: First, more than one crime must have occurred. The concept of impunity for previous acts will not need to be applied for the occurrence of a single act or crime. In addition, previous and posterior actions must be against the same victim, committed on the same subject, and violate the same (or another closely related) legal value. In addition, the previous and subsequent actions must be processed in the same context, and the posterior action must cause greater unjustness. Lastly, the posterior act must be punishable.
Crimes that meet these conditions can be classified under various categories. The first category involves the offender committing another crime in preparation for or as a precursor to the posterior crime before it is committed. The production or purchase of instruments to be used in the crime of counterfeiting money prior to the act of counterfeiting money can be given as an example of this (Turkish Penal Code [TPC] Arts. 197 & 200). The second category involves the offender first starting to commit a crime, whether intentionally or negligently, and then stopping it. However, within the framework of the offender’s new purpose that emerges immediately afterward, this time they commit a more severe crime. The case where the offender first injures a victim, whether intentionally (TPC Art. 86) or negligently (TPC Art. 89), and then intentionally kills the victim (TPC Art. 81) can be given as an example of this. In the third and last category, the offender commits a negligent crime. However, immediately afterwards, the offender commits a more severe negligent crime against the same victim. The case where the offender first injures the victim negligently (TPC Art. 89) and then kills the victim negligently (TPC Art. 85) is an example of this.
In all these cases, the offender is punished only for their posterior act. The offender is not punished separately for their prior actions, and these prior actions are not taken into account while determining the penalty.