Drexel School of Law
Case book: Criminal Law, Joshua Dressler, Stephen. P. Garvey, 7th edition
What is Criminal law
● Combination of common law, the Model Penal Code, and developments unique to
each jurisdiction’s legislature and court systems
○ Common law is useful in defining the language of a statute or filling in statutory gaps
■ Judge-made law over a period of centuries
■ Many common law crimes have been codified
○ Federalism principle
■ Often leaves criminal interpretation to the states
■ State legislatures are inhibited by the Constitution and other systematic, substantive limits
The definition of crime: The method of the criminal law, it pictures the criminal law as a process, a way of doing something:
The method operates by means of a series of directions, or commands, formulated in general terms, telling people what they must or must not do.
The commands are taken as valid and binding upon all those who fall within their terms when the time comes for complying with them, whether or not they have been formulated in advance in a single authoritative set of words.
The commands are subject to one or more sanctions for disobedience which the community is prepared to enforce.
What distinguish a criminal is the judgment of community condemnation.
Involves unpleasant physical consequence.
Model Penal Code: published by the American Law institute.
(1) not all common law crimes and defenses were codified;
(2) statutory systems were silent regarding essential penal doctrines;
(3) criminal codes included overlapping, conflicting;
(4) many codes applied internally inconsistent penological principles.
Jury in criminal Justice
Federal system: must 12; must unanimous
State system: 6-12; when 6, must unanimous; when 12, may 9 v. 3
Voir dire: the process through which potential jurors from the venire are questioned by judge or a lawyer to determine their suitability for jurors.
● Peremptory challenge
○ Attorneys have a limited number of times he/she can remove a juror without cause
○ Certain reasons – like race or gender – are not considered ample cause to remove a juror
● “For cause” challenge
○ Attorneys have an unlimited number of allowances to remove a juror if a juror is biased for any reason
■ Familial relationship to the prosecutor, prior victim of the type of crime being tried, etc.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt (not quantifiable, but inherently qualitative)
M.P.C. § 1.12(1) – No person may be convicted of an offense unless each element of such offense is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In the absence of such proof, the innocence of the defendant is assumed.
Presumption of Innocence
[A] society that values the good name and freedom of every individual [does not] view the social disutility of convicting an innocent man as the equivalent to the disutility of acquitting someone who is guilty.”
“[T]he law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” – Blackstone
“[The] state of the case… leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge.”
If, based on your consideration of the evidence, you are firmly convinced the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, you must find him guilty.
“No Waiver or Vacillation”
Such doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt.
“No Real Doubt”
Proof of such convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs.
It requires of jurors that they ask themselves, in silence and reflection, to seek out, in the sincerity of their conscious, what impression the evidence reported against the accused and the ground of his defense they have made on their reason.
Discussion: Why it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free; what if we lower the standard of proof
(1) morally wrong; (2) lose faith in rule of law; (3) prison full; (4) more easily influenced by skin color/ geographical; (5) more innocent get wrong accused and convicted
Plea Bargain Basics
● Agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant to plead guilty or nolo
○ Drop one or more charges
○ Reduce a charge to a less serious offense
○ Stipulate that certain facts led to the conviction
○ Make recommendations to the judge about a sentence that is acceptable to the defense
● Judge then has the power to accept or reject the bargain
○ Evaluates whether the proposed punishment reflects the charges and the defendant’s character
and/or criminal record
○ Also considers the facts of the case, the victim’s interests, societal values, etc.
● Judge cannot overturn t
running. Police officer found him after being alerted about a suspicious vehicle. Driver was clearly intoxicated when woken by the officer.
Issue (upon appeal)
● Was Owen’s conviction based on legally sufficient evidence?
○Would a rational person have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
○NOTE: Appellate standard of review is much lower
● Yes; a conviction upon circumstantial evidence alone is not to be sustained unless the circumstances are inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence; Appellate standard of review is much lower.
DWI (driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired): not require evidence regarding the driver’s blood alcohol content, instead, based on the arresting officer’s opinion.
motion for directed verdict of acquittal: only defendant can ask the motion for directed of acquittal; when weighing all the evidence, there must be a reasonable doubt in a reasonable mind (no evidence support a reasonable mind fairly conclude guilt beyond reasonable doubt), the judge must grant the motion; otherwise, if a reasonable doubt or no reasonable doubt is fairly possible, he must let the jury decide.
the appellate court review standard after a conviction on appeals grounded on insufficient evidence, is much lower than “beyond the reasonable doubt.” Drawing an inference of guilt is more than a flip of a coin between guilt and innocence, a finding of guilt is “rational and within proper purview of the factfinder.” The appellate court should assume that the jury resolved those factual conflicts in favor of the prosecution.
A jury can potentially ignore the facts and the judge’s instructions on the law and acquit the defendant for any reason whatsoever.
● Protects citizens against oppression by the government
● Findings of guilt are not just determinations of whether the accused is guilty, but also represent the “conscience of the community.”