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Criminal Law
Drexel University School of Law
Benforado, Adam

Criminal Law

Spring 2015

Professor Benforado

Goals of MPC

1) Distinct Standards

2) Distinct Language


Owens v State:

· “Christopher Columbus” arrested for DUI parked in driveway asleep

· There was legally sufficient evidence to find Owens guilty (reasonable to believe)

· Need for proof beyond reasonable doubt; Burden is proving guilt


State v Ragland:

· Judge incorrectly advises jury, uses word must (coercive lang.), ignores possibility of acquittal

· Should the judge have informed the jury of the power of nullification? Is the jury’s power of nullification an essential attribute of defendant’s right to trial by jury?

· The jury’s right to acquit despite overhwhelming evid. Of guilt is not a right of the accused but rather a power of the jury. Don’t have to tell them.

· Jury Nullification = A jury may acquit a D despite overwhelming proof of guilt



i. Moore

1. Punishment to be imposed based off of “Moral Desert” of offender

ii. Bentham

1. Pleasure and Pain – Experienced in degrees, Punishment based on these.

iii. Kant

1. “One man ought never to be dealt with merely as a means subservient to the purpose of another.”

2. “If Justice and Righteousness perish, human life will have no value in the world.”

iv. Morris

1. Bubble Theory: You Pop Another’s right to Freedom you Forfeit your own.

v. Murphy & Hampton

1. Punishment helps to Rebalance Moral Reality from the imbalance imposed upon a victim by an offender

a. Formula of punishment should serve this balance sufficiently.

b. Helps to re-assert and re-affirm a victims real value in the community following the transgression.

c. Serves the greater good of morality


Basis: What purpose will the punishment serve to society?

Purpose = Net Benefit to Society

· Promote and service the greater societal good

· Forward looking, community centric

· Goal is “Intrinsic Good”

Elements: (Greenwalt)

1. General Deterrence

a. Crimes & Sentences need to be Known

b. Increase Likelihood of being Caught and Convicted

c. Minimal Time Lapse

2. Individual Deterrence

3. Incapacitation/ Risk Management

4. Reform


Basis: What did the person do?

Purpose = Justice

· Re-balancing based on specific transgression

· Backward looking, victim centric

· Goal is “Pay-back”

· How is element of “desert” considered to justify


Who Should be Punished?

Queen v Dudley & Stevens

· Shipwrecked cannibals

· July 5th: Shipwrecked – 25th: Parker killed by Dudley & Stevens – 29th: All rescued

· Even under the circumstances, Dudley and Stevens guilty of murdering Parker

· Queen sentenced to death, only punishment available for murder

· Later, commuted sentence to 6 months, unlikely to commit type of crime again

o Guilty: Killing occurred, defendants are morally blameworthy/ culpable

o Not Guilty: – Didn’t Do the crime: “If the glove don’t fit, you must aquit!” –

o Justified: Killing was just, not wrong and/ or it was necessary –

o Excused: Killing was wrong, but defendants are excused from culpability because not morally blameworthy – Insanity – Duress

How much Punishment Should be Imposed?

v Indeterminate sentencing (broad parameters) v determinate sentencing (sent. Guidelines)

v Restorative justice – recog. Crimes being directed against individuals

People v Superior Court (Du)

· Convenience store clerk fatally shoots alleged 15yr shoplifter in back with modified hairline trigger.

· Du, no prior crim hist, guilty of voluntary manslaughter, sentenced to 10 years

· Sentencing: “Inappropriate”, but “understandable” (danger of re-offend/ others)

U.S. v Gementera

· Pilfered mail, anonymous crime, D had long crim hist

· Sentence: 2 months jail, 3 years sup. Release, 100 hrs standing outside post office with sign

· Comm serv. Switched to: observation at post window, apology letters, lectures at local schools

· Sentencing Reform Act- punishment must serve “legitimate objectives,” “reasonably related,” “involve not greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary [i.e. Rehabilitation and Reintegration into society]

· Def. claimed sentence violated Act, sentence affirmed, In context, rationale permissible- exposure to public is rehabilitative

· Court had fear due to crim hist, D didn’t understand gravity of crime

· Reasonable Relation test= flexible

· One of few cases to uphold shaming as a punishment, causes withdraw from society

Proportionality of Punishment


able for the government or the defendant, than it should be so interpreted in favor of the defendant.

a. Puts burden on gov. to clarify


Commonwealth v Mochan

· Harassing, sexual phone calls to married woman, conduct not prohibited by statutes or precedent

· Judge rules D can be punished under common law

· If conduct has “potentially injurious effect on public morality” is misdemeanor under commonlaw

· Dissent: Maj. Declares crime never before declared by common law

o It is up to legislature to determine what is injurious to public, overstepping bounds

Keeler v Superior Court

· Woman impregnated by another guy, husband confronts her and knees in abdomen, threatens to “stomp it out”. Baby delivered a stillborn.

· Issue: is a fetus a human under CA law?

· Penal Code: Murder is unlawful killing of a human; w malice aforethought.

· Under CA statute, an infant had to be born alive to be covered.

Perils of Ambiguity and Vagueness

Over breadth:

· “No more than a reasonable certainty can be demanded, nor is it unfair to require one who deliberately goes perilously close to an area of proscribed conduct shall take the risk that he may cross the line.

o If you knowingly walk the line, you assume the risk of crossing it

· “Uncertain meaning inevitably lead citizens to steer far wider of unlawful zones”

o Overbroad interpretations = Overreaching deterrence of unlawful conduct

o Trap citizens by not providing fair warning

Virtue of Clarity and Unambiguity

“The requirement that a statute be couched in terms of appropriate definiteness has been referred to as a fundamental common law concept”


· A statute that is vaguely drafted can be “saved” by a narrow judicial interpretation that narrows it’s definition/ application

o Constructive confluence of civil and common law