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

Criminal Law
Professor Corn
Spring 2015
I.        Legality
a.       Malum in Se
                                                              i.      Evil within itself
                                                            ii.      Nature of the crime itself makes it illegal
1.      Homicide
b.      Malum Prohibitum
                                                              i.      Evil because said is evil
                                                            ii.      Legislature passes law making an act illegal
1.      Speeding
II.      Actus Reus
Definition: voluntary act/omission/possession that causes the social harm that is the prohibited result. (Key element = volition)
a.       Act
                                                              i.      Act + Volition = Legal Act
1.      Volition: Not responsible for involuntary or unconscious movement or movement that is not the product of effort
b.      Omission
                                                              i.      Omission + Duty to Act = Legal Act
1.      Prosecution must prove:
a.       Defendant was under duty (familiar, contractual, statutory, assumption of responsibility)
b.      Defendant was physically capable to act
2.      Duty comes from:
a.       Status of relationship (ex: parent/child)
b.      Statutory duty (ex: to pay taxes)
c.       Contractual duty (babysitter)
d.      Assumption of care (after starting rescue)
e.       Creation of risk (car accident)
c.       Possession
                                                              i.      Possession + Awareness = Legal Act
1.      Must be volitional
III.    Mens Rea
State of Mind (AKA: Intent; Guilty Mind)
a.       Culpability: Mental state just has to relate to any action if prohibitive result occurs
b.      Elemental: Mental state has to relate to producing the prohibited result
c.       Proof of Intent
                                                              i.      Motive is not intent! Intent is the purpose to produce the result.
                                                            ii.      Intent is not presumed. It is inferred.
d.      Common Law
                                                              i.      Intent: Purpose or knowledge
1.      General Intent: MR points back to act
a.       Exists in EVERY crime.
b.      Ex: Battery: AR= touching MR= Intent to touch
2.      Specific Intent: any additional MR beyond the first
a.       Usually begins with “with intent to”
b.      Ex: Larceny: taking of another’s property with intent to permanently deprive
c.       At MPC, does NOT exist, all are just elements
                                                            ii.      Recklessness
                                                          iii.      Negligence
e.       Model Penal Code
                                                              i.      Purpose: Conscious objective to bring about a certain result
                                                            ii.      Knowledge: Substantial certainty that prohibited result will occur
                                                          iii.      Recklessness: Substantial certainty that prohibited result will occur
                                                          iv.      Negligence: Defendant does not realize she creates a risk, but reasonable person would know
1.      Criminal: gross deviation from societal standard of care
f.        Willful Blindness
                                                              i.      When the D is aware of facts that are highly indicative of another fact, the jury is allowed to infer that the D knew the fact in question. (Basically allows jury to treat recklessness as knowledge when the D deliberately avoided learning the true facts)
1.      Common Law: Not recognized; instead treated like intent
2.      MPC: Puts Willful blindness under knowledge
g.       Conditional Intent
                                                              i.      If based upon an unlawful condition or is in someone else’s control = IRRELEVANT
                                                            ii.      Plausible defense ONLY when condition is in control of D
1.      i.e. “if he walked through that door” vs. “if I decided to bring the gun”
2.      Give me that car or I’m going to kill you.
h.      Strict Liability
                                                              i.      NO requirement to prove mens rea, but only that they acted with volition
                                                            ii.      Act + Crime = Guilt
                                                          iii.      Any evidence of “why” would not be admitted because irrelevant
i.        Mistake of Fact Defense
                                                              i.      Not a defense, but failure of proof defense
1.      Honest mistake erases specific intent
2.      Honest AND Reasonable mistake to erase general intent
                                                            ii.      Common Law: Eraser Effect
                                                          iii.      MPC: nullifies an element and you are left whatever is left over
j.        Mistake of Law Defense
                                                              i.      Rule: Ignorance of law if NOT a valid defense
                                                            ii.      Exceptions:
1.      laws that require knowledge of the law to commit the crime
2.      Estoppel theory- when you rely on an official source who has authority to interpret that law, you can claim detrimental reliance on the appropriate governmental authority to get mistake of law defense
IV.    Causation
Link between the act (actus) and the result (reus)
a.       Cause in Fact (Actual Cause)
                                                              i.      “But For” Cause: (direct cause) the prohibited result would not have occurred, BUT FOR the D’s conduct. One act is the cause alone.
                                                            ii.      Substantial Factor: Two “but for” causes that independently could have caused the prohibited result, then each one is a CIF. Each cause on their own would be good enough to lead to the result.
                                                          iii.      Acceleration: if D’s conduct speeds the inevitable prohibited result
1.      Aggravation is not enough
b.      Proximate Cause (Legal Cause)
                                                              i.      Is there a subsequent intervention between the act and the result?
                                                            ii.      Does it supersede?
1.      If yes: the chain of cause is severed (i.e., there is NO cause)
2.      If 2nd cause is foreseeable → does NOT break chain
a.       Normal: Intervention was foreseeable (Objective test)
b.      D is still proximate cause
3.      2nd cause is unforeseeable → it supersedes/breaks the chain
a.       Abnormal: Intervention was unforeseeable (Objective test)
b.      D is not proximate cause (not guilty)
4.      Intervening Forces (Factors that potentially affect causal response)
a.       Act of God
b.      Independent 3rd party
c.       Act or omission of victim
c.       Concurrence
                                                              i.      Required mental state has to set in motion the act
                                                            ii.      If “but for” test is satisfied & there's a concurrent cause, ∆ liable unless:
1.      D can show criminal actions were clearly insufficient to => result; and
2.      Concurrent cause was clearly sufficient.
                                                          iii.      “Hitman Doctrine” (Corn term): Unforeseeable intervention, but D got the result he intended.
                                                          iv.      Ordinary medical malpractice is ALWAYS foreseeable. Extreme medical malpractice is abnormal
V.      Accomplice Liability
a.       CL: Accomplice Liability ≠ Crime, but merely a method to get to the conviction
b.      MPC: Some states hinder at a lower crime (modern way)
d.      Elements
                                                              i.      AR: aid, abet, encourage, facilitate to a principal when you have a legal duty to stop crime
                                                            ii.      MR: (dual): (1) intent to provide assistance to the Principle in 1st degree AND (2) acted with level of culpability required to establish the offense “aided”
                                                          iii.      AC: relationship between accomplice’s state of mind and completed crime
e.       Old Common Law v

                                                                                   iii.      Inherently Dangerous: secondary effect is inevitably dangerous to human life
1.      Abstract: look at very nature of felony. Has to be inherently dangerous no matter how it is committed. Is it possible to commit the felony without risk to human life?
2.      Circumstantial: look at fact surrounding the case to determine if it is inherently dangerous.
                                                                                                                                  iv.      Automatic Malice Implied from Malum in Se Conduct: BARRK (BARRK = Burglary, Arson, Rape, Robbery, Kidnapping)
b.      Right Time
                                                                                                                                      i.      Is the deadly act done sometime between attempt of felony and no longer in immediate flight? (Res Gestae)
c.       Right Connection
                                                                                                                                      i.      Is the felony the proximate cause of the death?
d.      Right Killer (caused by a HAND of a third party?)
                                                                                                                                      i.      Is the Defendant the killer? NO…, THEN:
1.      Agency (majority): Was the actual killer an agent for the defendant? Caused by Accomplice?
2.      Proximate Cause: Was the killing proximately caused by the felony attributed to the defendant? But for felony, there would be no death.
3.      Redline Doctrine-all lawful killings are exempt from felony murder, ie: police kills victim (ex: Sophophone)
VII.  Murder (Model Penal Code)
a.      Death as expected outcome
                                                              i.      Killing done with “purpose”; or
                                                            ii.      Killing done with “knowledge of substantial probability of death”
1.      No degree of murder: gravity of murders is determined on a case by case basis
b.      Death as an unexpected outcome of D’s unjustified risk creation
                                                              i.      Reckless conduct; PLUS
                                                            ii.      An Extreme Indifference for Human Life
1.      In an MPC jurisdiction, there is no Felony Murder, but **causing death during commission of a malum in se felony is presumed Extreme Indifference
VIII.                        Manslaughter (Common Law)
a.      Voluntary Manslaughter (Death as expected outcome)
                                                              i.      Unlawful, intentional killing of a human being without malice
                                                            ii.      PRESUMPTIVE murder DOWNGRADED because Malice is Erased by:
1.      Provocation producing: Sudden Heat of Passion
a.       SHOP = husband, not boyfriend.
2.      Diminished Mental Capacity
b.      Involuntary Manslaughter (Death as unexpected outcome)
                                                              i.      Unlawful, unintentional killing of a human being without malice
1.      A killing resulting from reckless conduct that does not manifest a wanton disregard for the value of human life
a.       Unjustified risk creation a reasonable person wouldn’t do
2.      A killing that results from gross negligence (criminal/culpable negligent conduct)