Select Page

Criminal Law
Rutgers University, Newark School of Law
Rapapport, Elizabeth

Crimes have 4 elements:
1.         A voluntary act (Actus Reus)
2.            Culpable intent (Mens Rea)
3.            Concurrence between Actus and Mens
4.            Causation of harm.
ACTUS REUS (guilty act) – voluntary act
ISSUES regarding actus reus:                
-D’s acts consist of mere thoughts or words, states of possession or status
-D did an involuntary act
-D had an omission, or failure to act.
Thoughts aren’t a crime.
Possession may be a crime (like of narcotics) in and of itself. But only if its conscious possession.
Involuntary acts aren’t a crime.
Unconsciousness prohibits a crime. (Rare… person is on “autopilot”)
MPC treats ppl under hypnosis as being involuntary action.
Self-induced states (allowing yourself to be put under hypnosis) can make you liable.
No liability for failures to act. (rescuing someone)
Sometimes D has a special duty to act. 
            1. Special relationship (like parent)
            2. Contract (lifeguard)
3. D caused the danger (even innocently) (D digs a hole on his property, someone falls in and dies… manslaughter.) D had a duty to protects those he knew to be in danger.
4. D begins help. Especially if he leaves V in worse condition, or dissuades other rescuers.
MENS REA (guilty mind)- culpablestate of mind / intent / recklessness / negligence
True mens rea: culpable intent
but… some crimes require merely negligence of recklessness as the “mens rea”. 
STRICT LIABILITY            – some crimes require no mens rea and are strict liability.
            1. General intent
            2. Specific intent
            3. Recklessness / negligence
            4. Strict liability.
General intent: D desired to commit the act which serves as the actus reus.
Specific intent: D in addition to bringing about the actus reus, desired to do something further.
Battery is usually a general intent crime. The actus reus is the physical injury or offensive touching of another So if D grazes V with a knife, intending only to scare V, he has the mens rea for battery because he intended to do the actus reus (graze with a knife). no intent to injure is necessary. 
For common-law burglary, specific intent is required. It must be shown D not only intended to break and enter the house of V, but that he also intended to commit a felony once inside. This latter intent is a specific intent – it is an intent other than the one associated wit the actus reus (breaking and entering).
Intoxication rarely negates general intent, but sometimes negates specific intent. 
(D is so drunk he breaks into a house but not for burglary).
Mistake of fact can n

ial motives may have bearing on a defense (self defense or necessity)
Some crimes require D to have knowingly acted. 
A judge or statutory presumption of knowledge may be used to help show D acted knowingly. 
When a crime requires attendant circumstances, and requires knowingly, D must be shown to have knowingly acted with regards to all the circumstances. 
(A statute requires someone to report if they buy a good for less than half of market price. D buys a vase of less than half the market value but fails to report. It must be shown that D knowingly bought the vase AND he knew the price was half of market value.)
Recklessness: consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk. ( MPC $2.02(2) ) 
-D must be aware of risk: SUBJECTIVE standard. A substantial minority holds that D is reckless if he acts extremely unreasonably even if he’s unaware of risk (Objective standard) MPC is subjective.
Negligence: MPC says awareness of risk not required.
-Gross negligence is usually required for criminal negligence: it’s more than what is required for civil negligence.