Select Page

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

Broad Overview: Basics of Criminal Law
1.      Principles of Legality
a.       Purpose of have creating criminal laws
b.      Burden of Proof
c.       Jury Nullification
2.      Elements of a Crime
a.       Act
                                                    i.            Act + Volition = Legal Act
                                                  ii.            Omission + Duty = Legal Act
                                                iii.            Possession + Awareness = Legal Act
b.      Mens Rea
                                                    i.            CL
1.      Intent (Purpose & Knowledge)
a.       General vs. Specific
2.      Recklessness
3.      Negligence
                                                  ii.            MPC
1.      Purpose
2.      Knowledge
3.      Recklessness
4.      Negligence
                                                iii.            Other Issues
1.      Willful Blindness
2.      Conditional Intent
3.      Strict Liability
4.      Mistake of Fact
5.      Mistake of Law
c.       Causation
                                                    i.            Cause in Fact
1.      But For
2.      Substantial Factor
3.      Acceleration
                                                  ii.            Proximate Cause
                                                iii.            Intervening Superseding Causes
d.      Attendant Circumstances
Common Law
    -1st Degree
   -2nd Degree
1.Muder (no degrees)
2.Voluntary Manslaughter (Heat of Passion)
2. Voluntary Manslaughter (Extreme Emotional Distress)
Death As Expected Outcome (Above = Death Expected/ Below= Death Not Expected
3.Implied Malice Murder
3.Extreme Indifference Murder
-Felony Murder is consumed in Extreme Indifference and considered as a factor to determine whether the D was extremely indifferent
4.Felony Murder
5.Involuntary Manslaughter
 -Recklessness or Negligence
4. Involuntary Manslaughter
    -recklessness only
5. Negligent Homicide
   -negligence only
6.Misdemeanor Manslaughter
Common Law Homicide
1.      Murder
a.       1st Degree
b.      2nd Degree
2.      Voluntary Manslaughter (Heat of Passion)
3.      Implied Malice Murder
4.      Felony Murder
5.      Involuntary Manslaughter
6.      Misdemeanor Manslaughter
MPC Homicide
1.      Murder
2.      Voluntary Manslaughter (Extreme Emotional Distress)
3.      Extreme Indifference Murder
4.      Involuntary Manslaughter
5.      Negligent Homicide
1.      Common Law Rape
a.       Elements
b.      Force = Beyond Penetration
c.       Woman has to physically resist
d.      Consent = ABSOLUTE DEFENSE
2.      MPC
a.       Elements
b.      Force = Penetration
c.       Reasonable belief of Consent = ABSOLUTE DEFENSE
d.      Shifts Focus
Inchoate Offenses
1.      Common Law
a.       Elements
                                                                      i.            Tests to Determine if the LP is crossed
1.      Probably Desistance
2.      Abnormal Step Approach
3.      Dangerous Proximity
4.      Physical Proximity
5.      Last Act
6.      Res Ipsa Loquitor/Unequivocality Test
7.      Indespensible Element Test
b.      Merges
c.       Defenses
                                                                      i.            Impossibility
2.      MPC
a.       Elements
b.      Merges
c.       Defenses
                                                                      i.            Abandonment
1.      Common Law
a.       Elements
b.      Merges
c.       Defenses
2.      MPC
a.       Elements
b.      Merges
c.       Defenses
                                                                      i.            Renunciation
1.      Common Law
a.       Elements
b.      NO merger
c.       Defenses
                                                                      i.            Withdrawal
2.      MPC
a.       Elements
b.      NO merger, unless there has been only 1 crime and it was completed
c.       Defenses-Abandonment
3.      Limits to Conspiracy
a.       Wharton’s Rule
b.      Legislative Exemption
c.       Braverman Doctrine
1.      Common Law
a.       Elements
b.      Defenses
2.      MPC
a.       Elements
b.      Defenses
Theft Offenses
1.      Ownership
2.      Possession
3.      Custody
1.      Definition
2.      Elements
a.       AR-Trespassory Taking
b.      MR-Dual
                                                                      i.            Intent to take
                                                                    ii.            Intent to permanently deprive
c.       AC-Asportation (carrying away of another’s property)
d.      Concurrence
                                                                      i.            Must Concur
                                                                    ii.            Continuing Trespass
3.      Defense-Consent
4.      Larceny By Trick
a.       If you obtain the item by trick/deception, there is no legal possession because consent is invalid
b.      Owner retains constructive possession
5.      Mislaid Property
6.      Bailment
7.      Robbery –Larceny by force or threat of force
a.       Force or threat of force = AC
b.      MR = intent to steal
8.      Burglary
1.      Definition
2.      Details
Theft by False Pretenses
1.      Definition
2.      Details
3.      Elements
Affirmative Defenses
Failure of Proof
1.      insufficient proof of MR
Legislative Exemption
1.      no accomplice liability when the accomplice is the intended victim
Public Policy
1.      statute of limitations, double jeopardy
1.      What is normally a crime isn’t a crime because it was necessary
a.       Always ask: Was it really necessary?
2.      Types of Justification Defenses
a.       Self-Defense
                                                                      i.            Elements
1.      Actual or apparent threat of death or grievous bodily harm
2.      Threat was unlawful
3.      Belief of imminent peril (MPC = immediate peril)
4.      Response was necessary (no real alternative)

me 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 legislature says it’s evil)
II.     Principles of Statutory Interpretation
1.      Plain meaning of the statute
a.       Legislature creates laws that define certain acts as crimes.
b.      Judges interpret the laws and define to the fact finder what the law is.
2.      Challenge of determining “legislative intent”
a.       Terms in the law may come from common law
1.      Judges presume that the legislature used common meaning of the term when they enacted the statute.
b.      Court will always presume the legislature didn’t intend to violate the Constitution
3.      Legislative history
a.       Judges must use stare decisis for interpreting the statute based on court’s determination of a word, element, etc. of the statute
4.      Doctrine of Lenity
a.       When the statute is ambiguous (could go either way), courts always rule in favor of defendant
III.     Roles of the court and jury (finder of fact) in the BRD equation
1.      Judge interprets the law, defines it, and instructs the finder of fact
2.      Jury is the finder of fact (unless it’s a judge) and they apply laws based on facts of case
a.       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
b.      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
3.      *Jury will only get to decide the case when there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant can be found guilty
a.       Jury cannot convict arbitrarily
b.      Judge cannot let jury have the case if he believes there is another rational hypothesis
4.      Jury Nullification
a.       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 defendant. When juries nullify, it violates their oath to apply the instructions given by the judge and usurps the power of the legislature to make laws and courts to enforce them
b.      It is a power, not a right, of the jury