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Criminal Law
South Texas College of Law Houston
Wheeler, Michael E.



The Act vs. the Harm
Stabbing someone vs. stabbing someone and them dying

– A crime is any social harm defined and made punishable by law.

Classifications of Crimes:

Common Law
1 Treason – punished as a felony
2 Felony – punished by death (or forfeiture)
3 Misdemeanor – punished some way other than death.

U.S. Law

Felony vs. Misdemeanor
1 Felony
o Capital – punished by death or life imprisonment
o Noncapital – punished another way; lesser variation could be a misdemeanor
2 Misdemeanor

Type of Social Harm
1 Offenses against the person
2 Offenses against property
3 Offenses against habitation or occupancy

Infamous vs. Noninfamous

Texas Penal Code

Requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”
Allows for civil penalties (dissolution of a corporation, suspension of a license)
Only felonies (Capital, 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree, & state jail) and misdemeanors (A, B & C)

STATE v. PEERY Mens Rea 32-35
Supreme Court of Minnesota, 1947
1 Indecent exposure conviction. Appealed and reversed because the court held that the conduct was not willful or intentional.
2 D was convicted of indecent exposure for being unclothed in his 1st floor apartment. Women who were passing by saw him. Dr. Thompson vouched for D that his office is across from the apartment and that he never saw this behavior. He also said D was a good character. D concedes he was careless, but that his conduct was not willful or lewd.
3 D concedes actus reus – the wrongful deed that comprises the physical components of a crime.
4 State did not meet mens rea element beyond a reasonable doubt.
5 Mens Rea – criminal intent or criminal state of mind. (not the same as motive)

PEOPLE v. KOHRIG Constitutional Right to Privacy 11-12
Supreme Court of Illinois, 1986
1 4 defendants were issued tickets for seat belt violations. The trial court held that the section was unconstitutional and dismissed the charge. The Supreme Ct. reversed the decision and held that the section is constitutional.
2 Quest

otics in from Mexico. D appealed on the basis that he did not know he was trafficking drugs b/c he never saw them in the trunk of the car he was given to drive.
2 Holding: The element of knowingly can be satisfied by “deliberate ignorance.” His ignorance was solely and entirely a result of a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth (what would an honest person do – objective test applied).
3 Common law does not contain any requirement that a person know with “high probability” of the existence of the fact in question.
4 Types of Knowledge
o Guilty knowledge – aware due to observation.
o Guilty Belief – belief that turns out to be correct is knowledge.
o Guilty Avoidance
§ Shutting one’s eyes (deliberate ignorance)
§ Telling you something and I don’t know if it is truthful or untruthful (no effort made to determine).