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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 check
                                                            2.      Allows a system of punishment
                                                            3.      Control human behavior and protects 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 Sanction
                                                            1.      Prevention
                                                            2.      Restraint
                                                            3.      Intervene and provide rehabilitation
                                                            4.      Deterrence
                                                            5.      Educate b/n 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 const’l 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 @ 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 to 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 actor criminally liable
                                                            3.      Concurrence – actus reus is triggered by the mens rea
                                                            4.      More Elements may be required depending on statute
i.        Causation – is person you are trying to hold accountable responsible for crime. There must be no intervening factors to break causal chain.
                                                            5.      State has burden of proving all the elements beyond a reasonably doubt
II.                Classifications of Crimes
a.       English Common Law
                                                            1.      Treason – high (against the king) or petit (against the prince or less)
i.        capital offenses punishable by death
ii.      Focus was on the nature of the harm
                                                            2.      Felony
i.        perjuable – could receive church sanction which is not death – all you had to do is read a bible passage
ii.      nonperjuable – death and forfeiture of land
                                                            3.      Misdemeanor
i.        Malum in Se (Wrong/Evil in itself)
ii.      Malum Prohibitum (Not inherently wrong/evil, wrong b/c legislature have prohibit to proscribe that conduct)
b.      Modern Classifications – felonies v. misdemeanors. Distinction most often made is nature of punishment and type of institution where punishment is served (Texas Penal Code 12.03 – 12.04)
                                                            1.      Felony – > 1 yr. in federal facility or death
                                                            2.      Capital Offenses – death
                                                            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 i.        Intent to do the actus reus for the particular offense b.      To establish the actual mens rea for a particular case:                                                             1.      identify the state of mind of the Δ                                                             2.      identify the particular offense c.       MPC                                                             1.      Intentionally (Purposefully) – highest degree of awareness i.        Desire to act or to cause result                                                             2.      Knowingly i.        Aware that conduct and is reasonably certain to cause the result                                                             3.      Recklessly i.        Consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk ii.      risk of a nature that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from standard of care that ordinary person would exercise as viewed from the actor’s standpoint 1.      State v. Petterson (Oregon 1974)                                                                                                                                      a.      Def should have been aware that racing was dangerous, court viewed subjectively                                                             4.      Criminal Negligence – lowest degree of awareness i.        Actor ought to have been aware that a substantial and unjustifiable risk was in place 1.      Gian-Corsio v. State                                                                                                                                      a.      Awareness of risk was an objective standard of a reasonable well trained medical professional                                                             5.      Risk i.        social utility – fewest deaths ii.      risk of harm involved                                                             6.      Awareness i.        subjective ii.      objective d.      Common Law Interpretations of Mental State                                                             1.      General Intent i.        Voluntary action or doing a negative act ii.      Failing to act while under a legal duty to do so iii.    Common to all crimes and is sufficient for conviction unless a particular offense requires some additional element                                                             2.      Specific Intent i.        To designate a specific mental element that is necessary to commit the crime ii.      State v. May (Idaho 1969) – forging father’s signature for bank loan 1.      Fraud- law actual states intent to defraud is an element of the crime                                                             3.      Criminal Negligence i.        Can be substituted for general intent ii.      Implies something done with a state of mind involving this type of blameworthiness 1.      Common law- applied subjectively 2.      MPC applies objectively e.       Other Elements to Consider for Common Law Mens Rea                                                             1.      Malice i.        Not used by MPC ii.      In crimes other then murder (Murder uses malice aforethought) iii.    Includes Negative and Positive 1.      Negative                                                                                                                                      a.      The absence of all elements of justification, excuse or recognized mitigation 1.      Ex of excuse- insanity 2.      Mitigation- heat of passion 2.      Positive                                                                                                                                      a.      Actual intent to cause particular harm or harm of the same general nature, or                                                                                                                                     b.      Wanton and willful doing of an act with awareness and likelihood that such harm may result iv.    Examples of crimes using malice 1.      Arson                                                                                                                                      a.      The malicious burning of a dwelling of another                                                                                                                                     b.      State v. Laughin (NC 1861) 1.      Guilty of burning corncrib even though only trying to burn down house. i.        Acted with wanton and willful disregard of obvious likelihood that crib would burn as well 2.      Mayhem                                                                                                                                      a.      Maliciously depriving another of use of such of his members as may render him less able, in fighting, either to defend himself or to annoy his adversary                                                                                                                                     b.      Terrell v. State (Tenn. 1884) – blinded by brick 1.      Def wanted to it viewed as specific intent crime but since he acted with malice it was all that was necessary to convict                                                             2.      Knowledge i.        Guilty Knowledge at the time of the act– subj. test 1.      Aware of fact as result of personal observation 2.      Bouncing a check (Texas Penal Code 32.41) ii.      Guilty belief which is correct 1.      Belief should be determined by the subjective test 2.      State v. Beale – shop owner was told items were stolen but he still sold them                                                                                                                                      a.      Use objective test to make sure Def acts as reasonable person then they use a subjective test to see if Δ actually knew the goods were stolen iii.    Guilty Avoidance 1.      Deliberately shutting your eyes to a fact that you would normally discover = knowledge                                                                                                                                      a.      If honest person would make further inquiry                                                                                                                                     b.      US v. Jewell 1.      marijuana in trunk. Δ purposefully avoids looking in trunk 2.      Misrepresentation                                                                                                                                      a.      Aware that you do not know and they end up appearing on contrary to what you represented 1.      Ex candlestick represent as gold when you really don’t know                                                             3.      Willfulness – intentionally or voluntarily don (not an accident) i.        Civil offenses – mala prohibitum 1.      willful serves to show legislative intent is to exclude holding someone accountable for negligence or accident ii.      True Crime – mal in se 1.      willful (by itself) denotes an evil intent or bad purpose iii.    Ex. Fields v. US 1.      Def wanted willfully to mean with evil intent. Court said that it only makes sure act was intentional not an accident or mistake                                                             4.      Strict Liability – no mens rea required i.        Impose conduct that was unaccompanied by guilty thought 1.      Commonwealth v. Olshefski                                                                                                                                      a.      Ticket for overweight truck – had it weighed and was w/i limits but then over the next time ii.      Very rare that leg

                                                      2.      Hypo
i.        D goes to sheriff and tells him that he threw X off bridge. Witnesses saw body and found X had drowned. Corpus delicit? No b/c there’s no criminal agency – no real evidence or witnesses as to how the body fell in to the bay
ii.      D confessed and witnesses saw D throw X over bridge. No body found. Corpus delicit? Yes b/c can wrap up conviction w/ confession and the witnesses who saw the crime occur
c.       Must establish Corpus Delicti before you can use an out of court confession
                                                            1.      Warmke v. Commonwealth – illegitimate child’s death – dropped off RR bridge?
i.        The criminal agency was established but the death was established by her in court testimony
1.      Circumstantial evidence can prove the death
2.      corpus delicti wouldn’t be established if she didn’t take the stand and have the initial confession brought in
                                                            2.      Downey v. People –man found covered w/ blood and said wife fell off cliff
i.        Circumstantial evidence is sufficient to prove the criminal agency
VII.          Homicide – The killing of a human being by another human being
a.       Innocent Homicide
                                                            1.      Justifiable
i.        Commanded or authorized by law (rules of engagement, self-defense, death penalty)
                                                            2.      Excusable
i.        Insanity, common law rules of 7, age limitations, accident when Def is not criminally negligent
b.      Criminal Homicide
                                                            1.      Murder
i.        The unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought express or implied
ii.      Unless defined by statute, a fetus is not a human until quickening, born alive, alive for a brief period at common law
iii.    Death = cessation of brain activity
iv.    Elements
1.      Some conduct, either affirmative or negative by Def
2.      Def must have malicious state of mind
3.      Causation – conduct must cause the death of another human being
4.      Death from blow must come within 1 year and one day of when it was struck
v.      Definition of Malice Aforethought Expressed and Implied
1.      Expressed
                                                                                                                                     a.      Ill will, thought it out in advance
                                                                                                                                    b.      Keeler v. Superior Court
                                                                                                                                     c.      Intended to kill fetus but court couldn’t find that fetus was a human being
2.      Implied
                                                                                                                                     a.      Intent to kill
                                                                                                                                    b.      Depraved Heart
                                                                                                                                     c.      Felony Murder
                                                                                                                                    d.      Intent to do serious bodily injury
vi.    Malice aforethought:
1.      Intent to kill
                                                                                                                                     a.      When the individual desires a result and he is substantially certain to occur
2.      Depraved Heart – willful, wanton disregard for life, extreme recklessness; subj. aware of risk of killing another but disregarded awareness of risk
                                                                                                                                     a.      Risk – social utility: maximizing the fewest deaths; awareness – subj. b/c of recklessness
                                                                                                                                    b.      Commonwealth v. McLaughlin – boys driving and hit family, did not intend for it to happen
                                                                                                                                     c.      Did Def have depraved heart or was it accidental. Question of fact for jury
1.      State v. Hokenson
i.        Def had bomb and showed reckless disregard for life
ii.      Did not matter that bomb went off after crime stopped.
3.      Felony Murder
                                                                                                                                     a.      Unintended death arising out of the commission of a felony
                                                                                                                                    b.      The killing and the felon must be parts of one continuous transaction
                                                                                                                                     c.      Concept to get mental state, need to establish actus reus and causation