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

Criminal Law                                      Wheeler                                               Fall 2003
I)       Definition of a crime – any social crime
A)    Criminalization – what is legislatures role in that
1)      Palmer v. Euclid
(a)    Statute is unconstitutional if
(i)     It is vague/doesn’t give fair notice
(ii)   overbroad
2)      People v. Kohrig (const. of a statute)
(a)    seat belt law is const. b/c
(i)     state interest
(ii)   narrowly drawn not to offend const
3)      Statute is const. if
(a)    There is a state interest
(b)   Legislature is narrowly drawn to express only the leg state interest at stake
B)    Criminal Accountability (1-3 must prove beyond reasonable doubt)
1)      Mens rea
(a)    Strict liability crimes don’t require mens rea
2)      Actus reus
(a)    Voluntary – consciously did action
(b)   Involuntary – wasn’t conscious but did action
(i)     ex: falling and reach out to grab something and accidently hit person in eye
(ii)   ex: sleepwalking and kick over vase
(c)    Omission – don’t do anything, no action but should have(negative acts handout 4)
3)      Concurrence – the actus reus is triggered by a mens rea
4)      Causation – D brought about the harm and there is no intervening legal doctrine or act by the victim or third party source that precludes finding there to be a causal connection b/w the actions of the accused and the resulting harm
II)    Classification of Crimes
A)    Traditional – common law classification had loop holes so…
B)    Modern – MPC gave guidelines to follow when deciding punishment
1)      Looked at crimes objectively
2)      Created culpable mental states
(a)    Degrees of awareness (intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, crim neg)
C)    Subjective / Objective
1)      Intentionally – subjective b/c look into actors mind
2)      Criminal negligence – objective look at facts and surrounding evidence
D)    Mens rea is different in MPC and Common law
E)     English Common Law
1)      Treason
(a)    High – against king
(b)   Petit – against prince or less
2)      Felony
(a)    Perjuable – w/ benefit of clergy
(b)   Non-perjuable – w/o benefit of clergy
3)      Misdemeanor
(a)    Malum en se – wrong in and of itself (evil crimes)
(b)   Malum prohibitum – no mens rea needed, king says its wrong, strict liability
F)     Modern classification (by statute or legislature) – classified by time spent in jail
1)      Felony – more than year jail time
2)      Misdemeanor – less than year in state or county facility
3)      Capital offense – punishable by death

e this result
C)    Proximate cause
1)      Dependent – no break in chain of action
2)      Independent – there is a break in causal chain and causation is not made out
D)    Intervening cause (subjective test)
1)      Is it foreseeable that it happened
2)      Did it happen
3)      Was it independent of D’s conduct as to not be fair
VI)Corpus Delicti
A)    Have occurrence of specific kind of injury or loss (ie body for murder, burnt house for arson)
B)    Prevents accused of being found guilty just on statements made outside of court, must have circumstantial evidence
VII)          CRIMES
A)    Homicide – killing of human being by another human being
1)      Innocent – does not involve criminal guilt
(a)    Justifiable – authorized by law (war, death penalty, self defense)
(b)   Excusable – accident committed by one who was neither criminal negligent or engaged in an unlawful act (insanity, infancy)
2)      Criminal
(a)    Murder – unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought express or implied