Corn Criminal Law Outline Spring 2014
I. ELEMENTS OF A CRIME = each element must be proved BRD.
A. Actus Reus = voluntary act that must cause the prohibited result
B. Mens Rea = culpable intent / criminal mind
C. Attendant circumstances = sometimes certain conditions need to line up in order to hold D liable for the crime, e.g. D must kill a person in order to be convicted of murder—another animal will not suffice.
D. Causation = the actus reus must produce the prohibited result
E. Concurrence = the mens rea must actuate the actus reus
II. ACTUS REUS = before there can be criminal liability D must have committed a criminal act, the actus reus. A criminal act must be a voluntary, affirmative act. The act component may also be satisfied by an omission, or failure to act under circumstances in which the law imposed a duty. A thought alone may never satisfy the act component of criminal liability.
A. Possession = Possession of an object may constitute a criminal act. Generally, there must be knowledge of the possession of the object.
B. Requirement of Volition = A criminal act must be the product of D’s own determination.
1. Reflex or convulsion = an act consisting of a reflex or convulsion does not constitute a criminal act b/c there is no volition.
2. Unconsciousness = an act performed during a state of unconsciousness, such as when the D is sleepwalking or hypnotized, will not constitute a criminal act.
3. Epileptic Seizure = if D knows of the possibility of a seizure and engages in an act with the potential for serious danger should D be stricken with a seizure then D may be criminally liable b/c he acted recklessly.
C. Act of Omission = the failure to act under circumstances in which the law imposes a duty may constitute a criminal act. Only in the following scenarios will the law find a duty; at common law, a mere bystander has no duty to act: 1. Duty imposed by statute = the law imposes a duty, i.e. to file one’s taxes
2. Contractual duty = a contract may require one to act to prevent harm, i.e. a babysitter may be required to assist an injured child.
3. Special Relationship = A parent has a duty to a child; a husband to a wife; an employer to an employee, etc.
4. Detrimental Undertaking = When D undertakes a rescue, then leaves the victim, leaving the victim worse off, then D will be required to return and render assistance.
5. Causation = a D that causes a victim’s peril, regardless of fault, will be required to render aid.
III. MENS REA = is the requirement that D possess a criminally culpable mindset or legally proscribed mental state. Notwithstanding strict liability crimes, a crime is committed when the actus reus is actuated by the mens rea, called concurrence.
A. Specific Intent = requires that D possess a subject desire, purpose, or knowledge to accomplish a prohibited result, in addition to his desire to commit the criminal act itself.
1. D must intend to commit the criminal act + intend to inflict some greater harm, i.e. battery with intent to inflict severe injury or common law burglary (breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony therein).
2. Specific Intent Crimes = FIAT
a. First-degree murder = unlawful killing with malice + premeditation and deliberation
b. Inchoate offenses = attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy all require that D intend that the prohibited result occur.
c. Assault with intent to commit a battery or battery with intent to inflict severe injury.
d. Theft offenses = larceny (taking with intent to deprive) and burglary (breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony therein).
B. General Intent = requires only that the D desire to commit an act that is unlawful, regardless of whether or not the result was intended. Generally, acts done purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly under the MPC are regarded as general intent crimes.
1. Battery is a general intent crime = b/c it requires only the D intend to commit a harmful or offensive touching; D need not intend to inflict an injury, as for the specific intent crime of aggravated battery.
C. Malice = includes intent, knowing, or reckless disregard of a high risk of harm. Malice crimes, such as common law murder and arson, are general intent crimes b/c they require only that D engage in a criminal act itself intentionally, knowin
law determined to be erroneous after the conduct will validate mistake of law defense.
H. Willful blindness = sometimes a called “deliberate ignorance,” willful blindness occurs, and thus constructive notice occurs, when D is (1) subjectively aware of a high probability of the existence of the fact in question and (2) D deliberately fails to investigate in order to avoid the revelation of the fact in question.
IV. CAUSATION = requires concurrence, actual cause, and proximate cause.
A. Concurrence = there must be concurrence between (1) D’s mental state and the act and (2) D’s mental state and the harmful result, if the crime is defined in terms of bad results.
1. Concurrence between mental state and the act = the mental state must exist at the same time as the actus reaus such that the actus reaus is actuated, or motivated, by the mental state.
2. Concurrence between mental state and result = If the crime is one that requires intent then D’s intended result must match up reasonably well with the actual result. There is no transferred intent between crimes, meaning that the intent to commit a homicide may not necessarily satisfy the mental state for arson.
B. Actual Cause = There are three ways to prove actual cause: (1) but for; (2) substantial factor; and (3) acceleration of result.
1. “But for” Test = If the prohibited result would not have happened but for D’s conduct, then D’s conduct is an actual cause of the harm.
2. Substantial factor test = If there are two independent causes, either of which could have caused the prohibited result exclusive of the other, then each independent cause will be considered a “substantial factor” and thus an actual cause.