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Criminal Law
South Texas College of Law Houston
Stevenson, Dru

Criminal Law
1. 4 General Policy Matters
1.1.              Deterrence
1.1.1.   a threat, if you break the law, we’ll send you to jail. Reduce crime.
1.1.2.   Utilitarian – don’t actually need a crime
1.2.              Retribution
1.2.1.   you deserve to be punished. It was morally wrong, we disapprove. Moralistic, certain actions are right, certain are wrong.
1.3.              Rehabilitation
1.3.1.   criminal made a bad decision, but they can be fixed. Modern jail system was created originally for this reason. Some lesser crimes today follow this policy.
1.4.              Incapacitation
1.4.1.   Some people are bad, they need to be off streets.
1.5.              Best Deterrent
1.5.1.   study suggests it’s to have extreme sanctions for petty infractions. In other words, the people who are committing the petty offenses, are likely the same people committing the more serious offenses
2. Basic Culpability Doctrines
2.1.              The traditional concepts
2.1.1.   The traditional concepts       malum prohibitum/strict liability – no intent necessary, don’t need to prove any state of mind       General Intent – a general guilty state of mind, intended act. All crimes general intent unless otherwise specified.       Mala in se/specific intent – certain crimes/statutes require a specific state of mind            Regina v Faulkner – man attempted to steal rum from cargo of ship. In doing so, he dropped a match which lit the ship on fire, completely destroying it. The issue here was did faulkner have the necessary mens rea to be guilty of burning down the ship? He intended to steal the rum, but did not intend to burn down the ship. But, it was a result of his actions. In this case, the court determined that because he did not possess the requisite mens rea, he could not be guilty of the crime of burning down the ship.                NOTE: Faulkner could have been reckless, if he knew that could be the result and disregarded it, or he could have been negligent, if she should have known that the fire could be the result. These options were never given to the jury to consider.            U.S. v Yermian – Defendant made false statements on a federal questionnaire. Therefore, this fell under the federal jurisdiction, which had a statute written specifically for these types of false statements. The statute used the worded “knowingly and willingly”. The issue is whether defendant needed to know that there existed a federal statute barring his actions, and he did them anyways, OR is it sufficient that he simply took the action, without knowing that there existed a federal statute. The court determines that the statute was written to apply to false statements that were later submitted to a federal agency. The knowledge that doing so was a federal offense is not necessary. “Knowingly and willingly” did not adhere to Federal jurisdiction knowledge.                NOTE: rule of lenity – when a statute i

bsequently charged with failure to register offense. Does this statute violate due process, where the person didn’t know of it’s existence and had no reasonable probability of knowing. Generally ignorance of the law is no excuse. But, due process involves the requirement of notice. The court determined that the actual knowledge of the statute or proof or probability of such knowledge AND then the failure to comply are necessary before conviction under that ordinance. The court felt that “mere presence” in LA was to little a standard for violation. There is also no method of attempting to notify felons that this statute exists.                NOTE: this offense is not morally wrong. It’s a crime of omission. It’s an exception to the rule that ignorance of the law is never a defense. Restricting people’s freedom of movement is generally looked down upon by courts.                Mistake of fact: ignorance or mistake about an element of the crime. For example, if Jon knew that bigamy was a crime, but he thought that he had legally divorced his first wife before marrying his second wife. When in reality, he hadn’t filled out the proper form. This would be mistake of fact.