Select Page

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

Criminal Law: Wheeler
I.                    Introduction – Crime is any social harm defined and made punishable by law
a.      Purpose
                                                            1.      Allows a system of checks
                                                            2.      Allows a system of punishment
                                                            3.      Control human behavior and protect society
i.         Substantive Law
1.      The part of the law that creates, defines, and regulates the rights, duties, and powers of parties
b.      Why do we impose Criminal Sanctions
                                                            1.      Prevention
                                                            2.      Restraint
                                                            3.      Intervene and provide rehabilitation
                                                            4.      Deterrence
                                                            5.      Educate between what is good and bad
                                                            6.      Retribution
                                                            7.      At the bottom line we are trying to determine a minimum standard of contact that we as a civilized society will tolerate
c.      History
                                                            1.      Common law makes the perimeters of the statutes clearer
i.         Legislative intent behind the laws, can be prompted by judicial decisions
d.      People v. Kohrig – seat belt law…
                                                            1.      regulations that limit person’s constitutional right to privacy may be justified by:
i.        A compelling state interest
ii.      the legislation must be narrowly drawn to express only the legitimate state interests at stake
e.      Legislative function is unrestricted but not absolute           
                                                            1.      Controls found in the Federal and State Constitutions
                                                            2.      Palmer v. City of Euclid – suspicious person ordinance, person in car that gets pulled over
i.        No man should be held criminally responsible for the conduct which he could not reasonably understand to be prescribed
ii.       Ordinance was too vague or broad
iii.      Not protected by state constitutions
f.        Elements to Establish Criminal Accountability
                                                            1.      Mens Rea – mental state
                                                            2.      Actus Reus – prohibited act
i.         Negative Acts
1.      Omission of doing that which is legally bound – has a legal duty
                                                                                                                                     a.      By statute – taxes
2.      May be sufficient to make the acto

              3.      Misdemeanor – < 1 yr. in state or county facility                                                             4.      Violations or Infractions – class C misdemeanor is equivalent to an infraction, punishable by small fines c.      Other Types of Classification                                                             1.      Infamous (Evil) – element of corruption or immoral v. Non infamous Crimes                                                             2.      Malum in Se – social harm is clear (i.e. murder) i.         all felonies                                                             3.      Malum Prohibitum – (i.e. parking ticket)                                                             4.      Malums only apply in context of misdemeanors   III.               Culpable Mental States (Mens Rea – the guilty mind) a.      Positive and Negative Sides                                                             1.      Negative i.         There must not be any factor which is sufficient to free actor from blame or accusation                                                             2.      Positive Intent to do the actus reus for the particular offense