Criminal Law – Spring 2015
Criminal Law is entirely Statutory [cases interpret the statute]
People v. Du
– Voluntary manslaughter: mental state is intent to kill, difference from murder is provocation.
What makes a serious crime?
– Extent of the harm. Is it more serious or a greater harm to take a child’s life?
– Intent to kill.
o Choice à we blame people for choices, what they intend to do CULPABILITY = term to account for the seriousness of a crime
– Protect society
– Punish Δ
– Encourage Δ to lead law abiding life
– To deter others
– Isolate Δ so they can’t commit crimes
Sources of Punishment
Common Law: All felonies punishable by death and also had misdemeanors
Legislation: NY: A-E Felonies, A-B (petit) misdemeanors, violations; MPC: 1-3(Degree) Felonies, misdemeanor, petit misdemeanor
States: Cali: codified common law; NY: mixed MPC and common law; 40 states have adopted large portions of the MPC. But it isn’t the law anywhere (always modified)
1. THEORIES OF PUNISHMENT
Assess the harm and culpability of every crime under these theories
GOAL: protect society
If suffering of Δ outweighs the benefit of society then jail/prison may not be beneficial
1. General Deterrence [send message to other people]
2. Specific Deterrence [send message to Δ; encourage Δ]
3. Incapacitation [isolate]
BENTHAM: general good of society is enhanced by punishment (only
if net positive)
GOAL: punish Δ [harm +culpability]
KANT: no man should be used as a means
– Race & gender: issues working in the background
– Extent to which the people look to judicial system for resolution
CONSIDER HARM + CULPABILITY + DANGEROUSNESS
[Coker v. Georgia] charged with escape, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, rape
8th amendment: “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
“Evolving standard of decency”
Georgia allows death penalty for rape if there are two aggravating circumstances: (1) rape was committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital felony (2) rape was committed while the offender is in the commission of another capital felony. (p. 75)
What makes a punishment excessive? (and therefore unconstitutional?)
1. It “makes no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment and hence is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering”; or
2. It “is grossly out of proportion to the severity of the crime”
Harm & Culpab
MODEL PENAL CODE
NEW YORK PENAL LAW
Judge made laws
Common law codified
(1960’s) American Law Institute
*Just a Model
Applicable to NY
(1965) & Amended
Ex Posto Facto: prohibits retroactive lawmaking by legislature
Due Process: prohibits retroactive lawmaking by judges
Changing the definition of a crime may be unfair because it will violate the policies underlying legality.
Rule of Lenity: Criminal statutes should be “strictly construed” = they should be read for the benefit of the defendant.
Keeler: “It is the policy of this state to construe a penal statute as favorably to the Δ as its language and the circumstances of its application may reasonably permit.
NYPL: General rule that a penal statute is to be strictly construed does not apply to this chapter, but the provisions herein must be construed according to the fair import of their terms to promote justice and effect the objects of the law” § 5.00 Penal Law not strictly construed.
Rules of Principles of Punishment (NYPL) [Objects of the law/6 purposes]
1. Prevent Harm
2. Give notice
3. Define act or omissions
a. To deter