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

I.                    GENERAL
a.      Crime: any social harm defined and made punishable by law.
                                                               i.      Offenses against the person
                                                             ii.      Offenses against property
                                                            iii.      Offenses against habitation or occupancy
b.      Types of Crimes
                                                              i.      Malum in Se: crimes that are inherently dangerous or immoral. (includes suicide even though it is not illegal)
                                                             ii.      Malum Prohibitum: crimes that regulate behavior, but are not inherently dangerous/immoral (parking violations).
c.      Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. (all elements)
d.      Limits on Criminal Prosecution
                                                               i.      Due process
1.      Criteria for vagueness
a.      It must be written so thatordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited; and
b.      so as todiscourage arbitrary and discriminatory application.
2.      Scienter(prior knowledge) can void an argument for vagueness.
3.      A statute can be unconst. vague“on its face” or as applied to that individual.
                                                             ii.      Right to privacy
1.      Only fundamental rights are those protected by 14th amend.
2.      A criminal law can be drawn that violates privacy rights so long as it:
a.      Is “justified by a compelling state interest” (seat belts) &
b.      it “is narrowly drawn to express only the legitimate state interests at stake.” (gun laws)
II.                 ELEMENTS OF CRIMES
a.      Mens Rea (mental state): criminal intent or criminal state of mind (not the same as motive).
                                                               i.      General Intent
1.      volitional doing of a prohibited act, intent to commit the act
a.      intoxication is not a defense
b.      good faith mistake is not a defense
c.      rape, battery, kidnapping
                                                             ii.      Specific Intent
1.      Intent to do some further act or cause some additional consequence beyond that required to complete the actus reus.
a.      cannot be inferred from doing the act
b.      Intoxication may be a defense if it negates the specific intent (burglary – going into a house to pass out)
c.      Good faith mistake is a defense if it negates the specific intent.
d.      Murder (express MA), solicitation, attempt, conspira

      Something intentional or deliberately done and not an accident.
b.      It excludes holding someone accountable for negligence.
c.      If it is a true crime, it must have the elements of evil or bad purpose
                                                          vii.      Absolute/Strict Liability
1.      Not regarded by community as involving a moral impropriety (parking tickets)
2.      if the law comes out of common law, it is assumed there is a mens rea requirement
3.      Strict liability will normally be held constitutional unless the penalty is too severe (gun laws)
a.      When a jail penalty is involved, you must review the legislative intent to determine if there should/intended to be a mens rea or not.
4.      Vicarious liability: holding someone (employer) responsible for another’s (employee) actions. Mens Rea by employee still required.
Absolute Vicarious Liability: holding someone (employer) responsible for employer’s actions and mens reas (if the employee were to act outside of their normal instructions). (selling alcohol to a minor)