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Criminal Law
Charleston School of Law
Lawton, Margaret M.

Outline – Criminal Law

NB: the only crimes we have looked at are sex crimes and homicide. Therefore, know the ins and outs of these, and know defenses and conditions/tests for attempt. That is the final (except for perhaps statutory interpretation and some policy issue – retributive vs. utilitarian).

I. Intro to Criminal Law
A. Sources
1. modern penal code (MPC)
2. common law (CL)
a. know which crimes prosecuted under what
b. know differences in analysis between both forms
B. Elements of a crime
1. mens rea (MR)
2. actus reus (AR)
3. causation: did my acts combined w/mental state combine to result in social
harm actual and proximate causes
4. social harm
a. all four elements should occur about the same time
C. Trial Process
1. Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused
shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.”
2. Steps for prosecuting a felony
a. felonious crime committed
b. arrest (made with probable cause)
c. complaint
d. arraignment
e. preliminary hearing/grand jury indictment
f. motions
g. trial
h. sentencing
D. Punishment theories (understand basics for policy argument questions)
1. Utilitarian
a. General deterrence
b. Specific deterrence
c. Isolation
d. Reform
2. Retributive
3. Proportionality: Need it be considered?

Owens v. State: Owens convicted of drunk driving but police never saw him
driving only parked. Circumstantial convictions allowed to stand circumstances were “inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”

State v. Ragland: Affirmed that while jury nullification is a power of juries, it is not a right under the Sixth Amendment and so no need to instruct juries that they have this power.

Coker v. Georgia: US Supreme Court held that death was disproportionate and therefore unconstitutional punishment for rape under the “cruel and unusual” clause of the 8th Amendment. Decision justified by rape not as serious as murder and no other states had such a punishment.

Harmelin v. Michigan: US Supreme Court upheld mandatory life sentence for

his adulterous wife in her pregnant belly causing the termination of a viable fetus living inside of her. Court held that because CA’s murder statute did not define “human being” and because historical context and common law precedent seemed to show fetuses were not considered human beings in 1872 when code was written, Keeler could not be tried on murder (i.e., the unlawful killing of a human being, with malice aforethought). Court cannot unforeseeably enlarge statute, for this would be the same as ex post facto law. Dissent: Argues that statutory language is not frozen in time but must be fairly and reasonably interpreted by the court to carry out the justice intended in the statute. [NB: Statute amended to include fetuses.]

In re Banks: Argued that a peeping tom statute was unclear as to precise meaning. Court parsed statute, attempting to determine intent of legis in drafting