Generally, an unincorporated organization does not possess a legal entity. A voluntary unincorporated organization cannot be held criminally liable because it lacks a legal personality.[i]
Generally, statutes or ordinances provide that ‘whoever violates the terms of the statute or ordinance can be considered guilty of a crime. An unincorporated organization does not come under the meaning of the term ‘whoever’ provided in the statutes or ordinances.
If an organization is considered a legal or corporate entity, it can be held criminally liable. However, criminal conviction of an organization will not provide the right to punish the members of the organization. The criminal conviction of an organization will result in a fine imposed on the organization.[ii]
However, officers of an organization can be held liable for an offense within the organization. In People v. Gilmore, 273 Ill. 143 (Ill. 1916), the court held that when a club in not allowed to sell liquor that intoxicate its members, the person who sells such liquors in the club can be made criminally liable for the sale.
[i] State v. Fremont Lodge of Loyal Order of Moose, 151 Ohio St. 19 (Ohio 1949)
[ii] Western Laundry & Linen Rental Co. v. United States, 424 F.2d 441 (9th Cir. Nev. 1970)