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ISSN 2611-8858


Comparative criminal law

Syntactic Ambiguity and Interpretation of Penal Statutes

Theoretical reflection on the proper methods for interpreting penal statutes has been rather insensitive to the interpretative challenge posed by the syntactic ambiguity eventually exhibited by the given legal text. In the realm of Chilean criminal law, one finds a clear example of this in the formulation of the rule of “superior responsibility” under art. 35 of Act No. 20357. By overlooking this ambiguity, one could be led to the assumption that the rule in question would only apply to superiors occupying military positions. The analysis of the specifically syntactic base of the potential indetermination of the legal provision can highlight the semantic and pragmatic factors that ought to contribute to the resolution of that ambiguity. The thus achieved interpretation results in the rule being also applicable to superiors occupying non-military positions.