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Criminal Law
St. Johns University School of Law
Chiu, Elaine M.

◙ Introduction
Crime—
An act or omission and its accompanying state of mind which, if duly shown to have taken place, will incur a formal and solemn pronouncement of the moral condemnation of the community

Burden of Proof—
Prosecutor must persuade fact finder of every element beyond a reasonable doubt

NYPL Section 10.00 Definition of Offenses
1. Offenses (fine or imprisonment)
a. Traffic Infractions
b. Violations (offense w/ no more than 15 days in jail)
c. Crimes
i. Misdemeanors—
anything punishable from 15 days to 1 year in jail
ii. Felonies—
anything punishable by more than a year in jail

◙ Principles of Punishment
a. Theories

I. Utilitarian
(forward thinking—looks to whether there is any benefit to the punishment)
◙ According to Bentham, whether an act of social practice is morally desirable depends upon whether it promotes human happiness better than possible alternatives
◙ Since punishment involves pain, it can be justified only if it accomplishes enough good consequences to outweigh the harm. Utilitarians believe that all humans act according to the pleasure and pain principle
◙ No matter how heinous the crime, utilitarians don’t advocate punishment unless it will provide an overall social benefit

◙ Purposes of Punishment
● Specific (individual) Deterrence
The actual imposition of punishment creates fear in the offender that if he repeats his act, he will be punished again
● General Deterrence
Knowledge that punishment will follow crime deters people from committing crimes, thus reducing future violations of right and the unhappiness and insecurity they would cause. Punishing those who do commit crimes will deter others
● Incapacitation
Imprisonment puts convicted criminals away from the public temporarily. The death penalty does so permanently
● Rehabilitation
Punishment may help reform the criminal so that his will to commit crimes will be lessened

II. Retributivist
(backward thinking—punishments are justified because people deserve it)

◙ Judicial punishment can never be administered merely as a means for promoting another good either with regard to the criminal himself or to society at large, but must be imposed because the person on whom it is inflicted has committed a crime and deserves to be punished
◙ Humans possess free will. Punishment is justified when someone chooses to violate society’s mores

◙ Types of Retributivists
● Negative Retributivists (can never punish innocent person)
Look at specific situation to find if person is morally culpable; you can never sacrifice an innocent person, regardless of deterrence
● Positive Retributivi

ore than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering;
[and] R 2. is grossly out of proportion to the severity of the crime

* (In order to be constitutional, a sentence must pass both prongs!)

White’s majority—(R) “An eye for an eye. Here, rape is not equivalent to death.”
Burger’s dissent—(U) “Punishment should be more severe than the crime.”

◙ Solem’s 3 Factor Test of Proportionality—
1. The gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty
2. The sentences imposed on other criminals in the same jurisdiction
3. The sentences imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdiction

● Kennedy’s Principles from Harmelin—
8th Amendment does apply to noncapital sentences,
But 8th Amendment does not require strict proportionality btw crime and sentence; rather, only forbids extreme sentences that are grossly disproportionate to the crime
So,
* Three part test to see if punishment is excessive:
-Use 2 & 3 of Solem test where factors in 1 are not proportional

◙ Modern Role of Statutes