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Criminal Law
Rutgers University, Newark School of Law
Thomas, George C.

·       I. Introduction
o   A. Principles of Punishment
§ Utilitarian
·         Punishment for the greater good of society; to better society; useful purpose; punishment only if the good from it outweighs the negative
o   No Punishment where:
§ There is no mischief to prevent; groundless
§ Ineffective; where it will not prevent mischief
§ Unprofitable; the harm will outweigh the benefit
§ Needless; where the mischief will stop on its own
o   Reasons to Punish:
§ General Deterrence to Society
§ Individual Deterrence to the Individual Actor
§ Risk Management: Remove from Society/Incarcerate
§ Reform
§ Retributivism [eye for an eye] ·         Punishment for the sake of punishment; just desserts
·         Wrongdoer’s moral culpability gives society a duty to punish
·         To put society back in balance from the harm done; punish to bring to equal playing field for all
§ Jury Nullification
·         Jury can acquit even if all the facts show guilt – used to counter oppressive government or when community feels no punishment is needed
o   B. Principle of Legality
§ The Principle of Legality
·         Condemns judicial creation of crimes
o   Can not punish someone for a crime that does not pre-exist; can not create a law after the fact to punish
o   Allows for fair warning to all
§ Doctrine of Void-for-Vagueness
·         Forbids ambiguous laws or laws which without specifying the criteria or what conduct is required to be punish; allows to much interpretation for the courts
o   Must be sufficient to inform a person of ordinary intelligence with reasonable precision
§ Rule of Strict Construction
·         Dictates that where there is uncertainty as to a law, it is construed in favor of the accused
·       II. Elements of a Crime
o   A. Actus Reus:The physical or external part of the crime; the wrongful, prohibited act
§ 1. Voluntary Act
o   The act must be voluntary
·         MPC § 2.01(1): A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable
o   Not voluntary acts under the code:
§ Reflex or convulsion
§ Movement while unconscious or sleeping
§ Conduct while hypnotized or hypnotic suggestion
§ Movement that is not created through effort or determination of the actor
§ 2) Omission to Act
·         Care of duty requires in certain types of relationships one must act and the failure to act is criminal when knowing such person to be in peril, willfully or negligently fails to make reasonable and proper efforts to rescue without jeopardizing their own life or the lives of others
o   Parent to child
o   Husband to wife
o   Certain occupations, based on statute
§ I.e. Master to seamen
o   By voluntary choice to act
o   Public duty
·         Situations where required to act [where there is a legal duty]:
o   1.Statute imposing duty to act
o   2.Status/relationship [see above] o   3.Assumed Contractual Duty
o   4.Voluntary assumed the care of another and so secluded to prevent others from helping
o   5.Creation of risk to another where you have injured the victim it is your duty to care for them/get help – creates a legal duty
§ A criminal action can create the legal duty to act – the crime will put the person in harms way, that can be the basis of the duty
·         Under US law no requirement to act even if risk is minimal, unless you have a legal duty
·         Absent special circumstances, a person has no legal duty to inform the police of another person’s plans to commit a criminal offense
o   Federal law does prohibit active concealment, but not simple nondisclosure, of a known felony
§ 3) Attendant Circumstances
·         Elements that constitute a part of the actus reus of an offense
·         A condition that must be present, in conjunction with the prohibited conduct or result
·         I.e. In drunk driving the attendant circumstance is being drunk
o   B. Mens Rea:
§ 1. Basic Concepts
·         Broad Meaning/Culpability: guilty mind, morally culpable state of mind
o   A defendant is guilty of a crime if she commits the social harm of the offense with any morally blameworthy state of mind
·         Narrow/Elemental Meaning: The mental state a defendant must have with regard to the social harm elements set out in the definition of the offense
o   A defendant is not guilt of an offense, even if she has a culpable frame of mind, if she lacks the mental state specified in the definition of the crime
§ This view prevails!!!!!
·         Common Law Intent: Defined to not only include the results that are the conscious object of the actor [what he wants to occur]; but also those results that the actor knows are virtually certain to occur from his conduct, even if he does not want them to arise
o   Proving Intent:
§ Actions speak louder than words!
·         The ordinary presumption is that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his actions
§ intent can be inferred from the surrounding circumstances, the offender’s words, the weapon used, and the force of blow
o   Transferred Intent
§ When an actor attempts to harm one person but instead harms another person the intent is transferred to the person harmed by the actors conduct
o   Malice:
§ Common law Murder and Arson
·         To establish malice it must be shown that the defendant recklessly disregarded an obvious or high risk that the particular harmful result would occur
o   Requires either
§ Actual intention to do the particular harm done; or
§ Recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not
o   Specific & General Intent
§ Specific Inten

did not know their age, you are guilty
·         Where an actus reus elements of an offense are strict liability based there is no defense for Mistake of Fact or Law to those elements
·         The mere fact that a statute is silent on the question of mental state does not necessarily mean it is a strict liability offense
o   Courts will look to the common law offense which was codified to see if that required mental state; or if the penalty is severe they will typically require a mental state be proved and not strict liability
·         MPC §2.05
o   Requirement of Culpability required in 2.01 & 2.02 do not apply to:
§ Offenses which constitute violations, unless the requirement is included in offense or by court determination; or
§ Offenses defined by statutes other than the Code where the legislative purpose was to impose strict liability
§ 3. Mistake or Ignorance of Fact
·         Ignorance or mistake as to a matter of fact will affect criminal guilt only if it shows that the defendant did not have the state of mind required for the crime
o   Requirement of Reasonableness:
§ Malice and General Intent Offense:
·         Must be a reasonable mistake or ignorance – one that a reasonable person would have made under the circumstances
§ Specific Intent Offenses: NO REASONABLENESS REQUIRED
·         Any mistake of fact reasonable or not is a defense to a specific intent crime – since the crime requires a specific mental state the mistake negates the specific intent required
§ Strict Liability Offenses: MISTAKE NO DEFNESE
·         Mistake of Fact is not a defense
·         MPC §2.04
o   (1) A defense when:
§ Negates the mental state required by the offense or where law provides the state of mind established by the mistake or ignorance is a defense
o   (2) Not a defense for the offense charged if:
§  the defendant would be guilty of another offense had the situation been as he thought it was
·         Ignorance/mistake will bump the charge/degree down
o   (3) Belief that conduct is not legally constitute an offense charged when:
§ Statue or act is not known to actor and has not been published or reasonably made available at time of conduct; or
§ Acting in reasonable reliance on official statement of the law, later found wrong