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Criminal Law
St. Johns University School of Law
Cunningham, Larry

Criminal Law Outline – Cunningham – Fall 2012
Part A:  General principles applicable to all crimes
N.Y. Penal Law § 1.05 General Purposes
Analysis of Criminal Liability – Criminal liability attaches if, and only if, each of three prerequisites are satisfied:
·         (1) Conduct must be criminal on its face
·         (2) It must be unlawful
·         (3) And it must be fairly attributable to the perpetrator
Criminal Analysis Step-by-Step (if you have all 3 then D is guilty)
·         (1) Prima facie case?
o   Elements?
o   D’s behavior met all elements BARD (Beyond a reasonable doubt)?
·         (2) Lack of Justification?
·         (3) Lack of Excuse?
How to Ascertain Elements PL § 15.15
·         “conduct” = Actus Reus àPL§ 15.00 (4) and rule of imputation
·         “Circumstances” = e.g., nature of victim (“public servant”)
·         “Result” = Causation
·         “Mode of Culpability”= Mens Rea à Applies to every material element unless otherwise noted
General Requirements (All Crimes – Corupus Delicti). Need all of these:
·         Legality
o   Legislatively – created by statute, not courts
o   Lenity does not apply to penal law. 
§  Just because there are multiple interpretations it is NOT construed in favor of the defendant.  § 5.00 tells us it is according to the “fair import” of the terms of their terms to promote justice and effect the objects of the law.
o   Specificity – not vague
o   Prospectively – not retroactive
o   Publicity – statute is available
·         Jurisdiction – Conduct or Consequence occurs in New York
·         Causation – (1) Direct Cause (But for) + (1) Proximate
·         Concurrence (only comes up in burglary and larceny)
·         Actus Reus
·         Mens Rea (unless its strict liability)
Punishment Theories in New York:
·         Retribution – the defendant has committed a wrongful act against the social fabric that requires our condemnation
·         General deterrence – by punishing the defendant, we will send a message to others not to commit similar acts
·         Specific deterrence – punishing the defendant will communicate to him that he committed a wrongful act. (stop him from committing that crime)
·         Rehabilitation – the defendant requires help and treatment.
·         Incapacitation – the defendant is dangerous and must be kept away from society to prevent further crimes.
·         Victims Rights (new one in NY only)
Sentencing – Look at:
·         Nature of the Crime
·         Nature of the offender
Criminal Law doesn’t usually punish for accident, usually need intent.
Standard of Proof is beyond a reasonable doubt
·         Higher standard than preponderance of the evidence because your taking away someone’s liberty (maybe even life).
·         This is rooted in the due process clause.
Actus Reus – guilty act (have to do something)
Needs to be:
·         (1) Voluntary +
·         (2) Act (Bodily Movement (however slight), Omission, or Possession).
·         Voluntariness
o   People v. Shaughnessy (passenger in car not found guilty of trespass)
§  If someone else moves the defendant that is not a voluntary act on the defendant’s part, so NO ACTUS REUS.
§  An overt act or a specific omission to act must occur in order for the establishment of a criminal offense.  An involuntary act is not criminal.
o   People v. Decina (epilepsy guy charged with criminal negligence for driving)
§  Court held that he is negligent because he voluntarily got into the car when he knew his condition put others at risk of harm.  Didn’t matter that he didn’t intend to harm them.
o   HYPO – Defendant is a truck driver.  One night he gets sleepy at the wheel and open the window to try and wake up.  It doesn’t work and he falls asleep and crashes and kills someone. 
§  HOLDING:  Defendant is probably criminally negligent in homicide because he voluntarily kept driving when he knew he was sleepy.
o   HYPO – Person ordered to do something is still voluntarily doing it.  Person pushed or physically made to do something is not voluntarily doing it.
 Types of Acts:
·         Actness (Bodily Movement)
o   People v. Davis (CAN’T CONVICT ON STATUS ALONE- Robinson)
§  Court draws the line here by not allowing addiction to be a defense, because then where does it stop?  (This is the slippery slope rationale).
§  You can prosecute a person for having the drugs, not for being addicted to them.  That is were the court drew the line.
·         Omission – Failure to perform an act, where duty is imposed by law.
o   Requirements to convict for Omission.  Must show D had:
§  (1) Legal Duty – legal duty is created by:
·         Statute
·         Contract – Both implicit and explicit
·         Status – Parent to child (not vice versa) & Spouse to Spouse (have to be married, girlfriend doesn’t count).  These are the only two that exist.
·         Voluntary assumption of care (“I’ll save him!”) – others assume you will save him and then they don’t help, so kid is worse off than when he started.
·         Creation of Peril – when you create the peril
§  (2) Knowledge of the Facts
§  (3) Ability to help – not strict, have to do anything reasonable (not being able to swim is not an excuse… call someone, do something, try).
o   Cases:
§  People v. Lansing Terrance Apartment (Swimming pool kids drown)
·         If there is no duty imposed by law, then there can be no criminal omission
§  People v. Robbins (Husband lets wife die because she want to).
·         This case is an exception to the rule. Because wife decided herself while she was still able to be rational that she didn’t want help, the husband had no duty to summon help.  A competent adult has the right to determine where or not to undergo medical treatment.
·         If wife had not made it clear and was not able to make a rational choice court could convict under omission theory.
§  People v. Sanford I (daughter and mother fight, mother falls down steps).
·         Child has no legal duty to parent, also daughter didn’t create the peril so she had no duty.  Also, she tried to help but mother refused. 
·         Also, not deplorable behavior (has to be deplorable behavior to find guilty).
§  People v. Sanford II (later reversed when they found out daughter was a nurse)
·         Appellate court said that it doesn’t matter if the behavior was deplorable; if you caused the injury you have to help (need knowledge and ability too, which daughter had because she was a nurse).
·         Possession §15.00(2) – weapons, drugs, and stolen property.  HAVE TO BE AWARE OF THE POSSESSION.  Possession is not an act it is a state of being, a status.  2 types of possession:
o   (1) Actual Possession – it is on your person (in your pocket, clothing, bag on your being, in an orifice, etc.)
§  How do you prove knowledge of possession?
·         It is obvious you should know the substance or weapon is on you.  (can’t be carrying a gun without knowing you have it in your pocket).
§  HYPO – You stole someone’s wallet and the cops started chasing you.  While running away you toss the wallet at some random person and they catch it.  Can the person who caught the wallet be convicted or possession of stolen property?
·         NO.  Must have possession for sufficient period of time to dispose of it (weapon or drug).  This is called the Innocent Possession Defense.
o   (2) Constructive Possession – not on you, but you have control or dominion over person or area.  Control of substance is enough; you don’t have to physically possess it.
§  HYPO (1) – If Cunningham leaves drugs in the podium he still has possession because he has control.  That is his podium and no one is going to go there to take the drugs.
§  HYPO (2) – If Cunningham leaves the drugs on a students desk it is not clear who has control anymore, they are accessible to anyone. 
§  HYPO (3) – If Cunningham leaves the drugs on a chair and tells a student to bring them to him and the student does bring them, who has possession?  What type of possession?
·         Student is guilty of actual possession.  He knew they were drugs and he had them on his person.
·         Cunningham is guilty of constructive possession.  He was ordering the student to bring him the drugs he had constructive possession (like People v. Rivera)
§  People v. Rivera (guy ordered his brother to shoot and kill)
·         Court held that even though brother never had possession of the weapon, he had “dominion” and “control” over it commanding his brother to get it and bring it and pull the trigger. 
§  People v. Manini
·         Court held that having a financial interest is not enough to create possession.
·         Presumptions (part of possession) –
o   HYPO – Our 1L professors are in a car and police pull them over and find drugs right in the middle of the car.  Everyone can be charged with presumption.  Why?
§  Because it is assumed that they knew of the substance befor

§  So it’s like a hidden mental state.  In order to voluntarily possess something you must be aware (have knowledge), establish BARD.
§  It is evident legislature purposefully omitted intent in the 3rd section, because it added it in the 1st.
·         People v. Steinberg (cracked out lawyer beats little girl to a pulp, but its ok, don’t worry he has supernatural healing power after he snorts the good stuff).
o   Knowledge or Awareness that a result will occur is not a prerequisite of intent.   Someone can have intent to cause serious injury even if they don’t have medical knowledge of what it will do to the victim.
·         Intent doesn’t require advanced planning, or that it be in the person mind for a particular period of time.  Intent can be instantaneous. 
·         Intent is about purpose, has to be a person’s conscious objective.  How do you figure that out?  Ask the jury:
o   PJI for Intent (Everything must be proved BARD)
§  (1) What did the people do or say?
§  (2) What result followed that persons conduct,
§  (3) Was that the natural or necessary result? (If I shoot you the natural result is that you will be severely injured.  If I pat you on the back it is not a natural result if you get severely injured)
o   PJI for the Motive:
§  Look at the reason the person did it. 
§  Motive is never an element of a crime, however it is helpful in determining the conscious objective of the defendant.  For instance if D had a motive to commit the crime the jury may wish to consider it as tending to support a finding of guilt.  Same goes for if D didn’t have a motive to commit the crime.
·         PJI for Knowingly – question of whether a person had the knowledge, that is, the awareness, required for the commission of the crime
o   Consider all circumstances: What did the person say or do?
o   If there is a possession charge:
§  The act of possession of property by a person permits the inference that such person knows that he or she possesses.  Thus, if you find BARD that d was in possession of (specify), then you may, but you are not required to, infer from that fact that they knew that they possessed (specify).
·         People v. Strong (Come over her my son and let me stab you.  I promise nothing will happen because I have the power of mind over matter.)
o   How does a court determine what charges go to the jury?
§  Where a reasonable view of the evidence supports a finding that a defendant committed this lesser degree of homicide, but not the greater, the lesser crime should be submitted to the jury….If there is no reasonable view of the evidence which would support such a finding, the court may not submit such lesser offense.
·         If the court is authorized to submit a lesser offense and either party request that it do so, it must submit the lesser offense.
o   Majority says you have to submit the lesser charge, even though they don’t believe the defendant, because there is a chance however slight, that the jury will find that it is a reasonable view.  Court says you don’t always do this every time you have some subjective evidence, you have to look at the objective indications of what the defendants subjective state was, and if there is evidence from which the jury could reasonably conclude that a lesser charge applies, then the lesser charge must be applied.
o   Dissent says it is not a reasonable view.
·         Transferred Intent – Same policy as tort law, but you have to have it in the statute. (School teacher example, 120.05(2) mentions 3rd party, 120.05(10) doesn’t) (But may have found an exception, what we asked Cunningham after class)