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Criminal Law
South Texas College of Law Houston
Corn, Geoffrey S.

Four elements of a crime that must be proven:
1)      Actus Reus (AR) (the voluntary act/omission that causes the prohibited result. Cannot be a reflex, convulsion, hypnotic state, or unconscious act) **Every crime has an actus reus
2)      Mens Rea (MR) (the culpable mental state. The intent. “guilty mind”)
a.       How do you prove it? “actions speak louder than words” You can infer state of mind through conduct. Generally proved circumstantially.
b.      MPC: purpose, knowledge, recklessness, negligence
c.       CL: intent, recklessness, negligence
3)      Attendant Circumstance (AC) Other elements that must be proved to establish the prohibited result…ex. Human being, under age 18, dwelling house)
4)      Causation (state has to prove the act produced the result. The link b/w actus and reus)
5)      Concurrence (in order to be guilty of the crime, the mind must concur with the action)
Circumstantial evidence v. Direct evidence-Which one is better?
Either one. The jury’s job is to find the fact, to weigh the evidence, and to assess credibility and determine facts.
Ex: Someone comes in the classroom and yells, “There is snow outside!” but it is hot and by the time you go outside, the snow has probably melted. The quote is direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence are the pictures that you get from the traffic light cameras showing no snow at 10, 10:02, 10:05, and 10:10.
prima facie burden: government’s requirement to produce evidence on every element in its case in chief (prima facie means it is accepted as correct until proven otherwise)
I.          The principle of legality
            a. Due Process aspect
                        i. Provides people with protection from arbitrary enforcement of the law
1.      Notice issue: People need to know about the law. They don’t have to have actual knowledge, but they need to have the ability to know
            a. Statutes have to give notice about the crime being committed
ii. You can’t have crime without an existing law. P of L condemns judicial creation of law
iii. Malum in Se (evil within itself)
1.      Ex. Murder and rape—the nature of the crime itself shows its evil
iv. Malum Prohibitum (evil because legis says it’s evil)
II.        Principles of Statutory Interpretation
a.       Plain meaning of the statute
i.        Legislature creates laws that define certain acts as crimes.
ii.      Judges interpret the laws and define to the fact finder what the law is.
b.      Challenge of determining “legislative intent”
i.        Terms in the law may come from common law
                                                                        1.      Judges presume that the legis used common meaning of the term when they enacted the statute.
ii.      Court will always presume the legis didn’t intend to violate the Constitution
c.       Legislative history
i.        Judges must use stare decisis for interpreting the statute based on court’s determination of a word, element, etc of the statute
d.      Doctrine of Lenity
i.        When the statute is ambiguous (could go either way), courts always rule in favor of ∆
III.       Roles of the court and jury (finder of fact) in the BRD equation
a.       Judge interprets the law, defines it, and instructs the finder of fact
b.      Jury is the finder of fact (unless it’s a judge) and they apply laws based on facts of case
i.        Each material element must be supported by evidence that establishes proof BRD
                            1.   BRD is reached when every fair and rational hypothesis of innocence has been eliminated such that the only reasonable conclusion is guilt
                                                                        2.      Prosecution has to prove that guilt is reasonable and that innocence is unreasonable
ii.      Inferences can help a jury decide if it is reasonable to conclude the state proved every element
                                                                        1.      Inferences are conclusions drawn from evidence and are permissive
                                                                        2.      A presumption is a mandatory starting conclusion of not guilty that may be rebutted with evidence
c.       *Jury will only get to decide the case when there is a reasonable possibility that the ∆ can be found guilty
i.        Jury cannot convict arbitrarily
ii.      Judge cannot let jury have the case if he believes there is another rational hypothesis
d.      Jury Nullification
i.        Jury has the power to return a not guilty verdict even though the gov’t has proved every material element BRD. 5th amendment prevents retrying ∆. When juries nullify, it violates their oath to apply the instructions given by the judge and usurps the power of the legis to make laws and cts to enforce them
ii.      It is a power, not a right, of the jury
IV.       Role of evidence
a.       Direct evidence
i.        Directly from the ∆s mouth
b.      Circumstantial evidence
i.        All other evidence surrounding the crime
c.       One is not better than the other. It depends on the case and the evidence
d.      Jury may infer from the evidence to determine a conclusion
I.          Definition
a.       A voluntary act that produces the social harm that is the prohibited result defined by a     statute. (actus=act; reus=prohibited result)
i.        Social harm is the negation, endangering, or destruction of another which is deemed socially valuable
                                                                        1.      Ex. Loss of life not only affects the person’s family but society as a whole has lost their sense of security
b.      You are only responsible for voluntary, conscious acts
i.        Sleepwalking, hypnotic state, reflexes, convulsions, and unconscious acts are not voluntary
II.        Mental component required
a.       An act without volition, knowledge, or duty is not an act at all
b.      For physical actsàvolition
c.       For possession actsàknowledge
i.        You must have knowledge of the possession of an illegal object
d.      For omissionàduty
i.        You have no general duty to act, but you must act when there is a legal duty
ii.      An obligation to act is created by:
                                                                        1.      Status of relationship (parent-child)
                                                                        2.      Statutory duty (to pay taxes)

                                                     2.      Any offense that adds “with intent to”  adds a specific intent
iii.    At MPC there are no general/specific intent elements, just simply elements
d.      Common Law culpable mental states
i.        Intent (prove by purpose or knowledge)
                                                                        1.      Conscious objective (purpose) to bring about the prohibited result
                                                                        2.      Knowledge that prohibited result is substantially certain impute
a.       Knowledge of attendant circumstances Knowledge is imputed if:
i.        ∆ is actually aware of the fact
ii.      Correctly believes that a fact exists
iii.    Suspects that it exists and purposefully avoids learning if it exists (willful blindness—deliberately avoiding learning the truth—shows recklessness regarding truth so its considered knowledge, therefore intent)
ii.      Recklessness
                                                                        1.      A conscious disregard that conduct creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of producing the prohibited result
                                                                        2.      Objective analysis of fault based on a reasonably prudent person (RPP)
iii.    Negligence
                                                                        1.      ∆ doesn’t realize the risk be a reasonable person would
a.       a gross deviation from societal standard of care
e.       MPC culpable mental states
i.        Purpose
                                                                        1.      Conscious objective of committing the act or producing a certain result
ii.      Knowledge
                                                                        1.      Knowledge that prohibited result is substantially certain
                                                                        2.      Knowledge of attendant circumstances Knowledge is imputed if:
a.       ∆ is actually aware of the fact
b.      Correctly believes that a fact exists
c.       Suspects that it exists and purposefully avoids learning if it exists (willful blindness—deliberately avoiding learning the truth—shows recklessness regarding truth so its considered knowledge)
iii.    Recklessness
                                                                        1.      Awareness of a risk that may cause an outcome, ignore that risk
                                                                        2.      Judgment aspect to jury whether the ∆ was aware of the risk