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Criminal Law
St. Johns University School of Law
Simons, Michael A.

Criminal Law Simon Spring 2017

Principles of Punishment



Forward Looking

Backward looking

Consequentialist (cost/benefit)


Crime Prevention & Punishment Minimization

Just Deserts

Harm: injury caused
Culpability: choice made

General Deterrence
Specific Deterrence

Negative: allows punishment

Positive: requires punishment

Culpability has to do with consciousness of decision and degree of harm.

Punish greater harm more, more pain willing to inflict.

You deserve more punishment.

Where does Criminal Law come from?

Common Law: judge made

California uses adopts/states the common law principles


Codifying Coammon Law
MPC à drafters are allowed to copy, not law anywhere unlike UCC

Levels of Crimes

Common Law



Felony: more than one year of punishment

Felony: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree

Felony: A-E

Misdemeanor: 1 year or less of punishment


Misdemeanor: A

Petty Misdemeanor: B

Petty Misdemeanor

Violation: speedy, disorderly conduct

People v. Du: California case (grocery store/orange juice killing)

Voluntary Manslaughter à intentional killing
Sentencing discretion by judge
Argument about sentencing:



Harsh Punishment

Deter others and other shop owners

Harm: 15 year old girl killed

Choice: she chose to do this voluntarily

Less Punishment

She will not do this again; no danger; no isolation needed

She was provoked, inflicting less of a harm because of bad acts by victims.

Take Away:

The community is looking to the criminal law for a set of values. People put huge values on the criminal law’s judgment
Race and gender play a big role in the criminal law.


8th amendment: cruel and unusual punishment; excessive bail and fines
Furman v. Georgia: ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. State statutes needed to list aggregating and mitigating factor for giving the DP, but this was reinstated in Greg v. Georgia
Coker v. Georgia: (Supreme Court à 1977)

Rule: Death penalty for adult rape is unconstitutional. It is excessive.
Focused on harm and proportionality in majority’s opinion.



For Death Penalty

Great harm so we want to generally deter individuals
Ultimate incapacitation
No specific deterrence argument
Can be seen as conduct that cannot be detered

Rape is just as bad as murder; continuing choice
Harm to society is so great, that this is justifiable (upsets the moral balance)

Life Without Parole

Will deter killing during rape
Incapacitation because no chance of parole

Harm of rape isn’t as great as murder

Kennedy v. Louisana: rape of a child doesn’t allow for the death penalty.
Bottom Line: Death penalty is reserved for homicide





Life with Parole for $120 bad check

Life without Parole for $100 bad check

Life without Parole for 672g of cocaine

Theft of $1,200 golf clubs sentence of 25-life





Wobble Process in California: if you have a prior record there is leniency for charging either a misdemeanor or felony
3 Strike Policy in California:

Crime 1: Felony: violent or drug
Crime 2: Felony: violent or drug
Crime 3: Felony of any kind à mandatory sentence in 25 to life

Incapacitation and deterrence

luntary Act: MPC Definition: a bodily movement that is a product of effort or determination
Why require an act?

Proof Problems
Prediction problems: who will actually follow through?
Freedom of thought


Punish innocents
Over Deterrence
Social unease

State v. Utter (stabbing son)

What aren’t considered voluntary acts?

Sleep Walking
Other “unconscious” movements

Why not punish involuntary acts?

Not deterrable à utilitarian
Didn’t make a culpable choice à retributive

Beardsley (weekend affair)

Had no legal duty to help her

When you have a legal duty to act?

Creates criminal responsibility

When you must act with a legal duty?


Statute imposes (taxes, reporting child abuse)
Status Relationship (parent/child; spouse)
Contractual Relationship (lifeguard; Doctor/Patient; Babysitter)
Voluntary Assumption of Care and seclusion
Creation of peril

Knowledge of Peril
Ability to help
Knowledge of facts giving rise to the duty

Crime = Act + Mental State + Causation

Act= Duty + Wherewithal

Good Samaritan

Kitty Genevous
Cash Case

Mens Rea:

Regina v. Cunningham: (gas meter theft)

Malice is defined:

Actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done
Recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not
Guilty only if he did foresee the risk and took the risk anyway.

Reckless à did know risk
Negligent à should have known risk