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Criminal Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Ewing, Charles P.

Ewing Crim Law Fall 2012
·         Four elements: All crimes have several basic common elements: (1) a voluntary act–actus reus, a culpable intent–mens rea, concurrence between the mens rea and the actus reus; and causation of harm.
·         Justifications of punishment
o   General deterrence proceeds on presumption that people think pain outweighs gain (cost benefit analysis). Yes, it works, if we didn’t have laws against theft we’d probably have more thefts. But it’s not perfect. Warns others that if they commit the crime they’ll get punished
o   Denunciation – we’re telling you this is wrong and we’re in control
o   Specific deterrence – teach person a lesson. Directed at criminal
o   Rehab
o   Incapacitation – lock criminal up to protect the public.
o   Retribution- you committed a crime, now you must pay. Proportional- punishment must fit the crime
o   Incapacitation/denunciation/retribution – main reasons for punishment
o   Denunciation and retribution probably the best reasoning.
·         Commitment under the act didn’t implicate either of the two primary objectives of criminal punishment: retribution or deterrence
·         ∆ legally had “mental abnormality” (pedophilia), confined to civil commitment after prison sentence served. Normally to be civilly committed you must have mental illness, be harm to others, nee things available in hospitals and they don’t realize it
·         Is civil commitment under SVP Act constitutional?–>∆ claimed it would be double jeopardy
·         SC – it[s not criminal proceeding because commitment under the act isn’t punishment, it’s treatment
·         Didn’t violate DP because liberty interests in freedom from physical restraint isn’t absolute. States can provide for forcible detainment of people who are unable to control their behavior and who pose a threat to the publish
·         Death penalty for child rape.
·         Evolving standards of decencyàwhat do other states do? 44 states don’t make child rape capital offense
·         Deterrence would be negatively affectedàrisk of non-reporting; if same punishment for rape as is for murder, then might as well kill child
·         Retribution – is victim’s hurt lessened if law allows DP for perpetrator/ crime doesn’t justify harshness of DP
·         Limited DP to murder and treason
·         Incongruity between child rape and harshness of DP poses risks of over-punishment
·         Did 8A prohibit life sentence for repeat felon under three strikes law for stealing three golf clubs
·         Three factors relevant to determination of whether sentence is disproportionate
o   Gravity of the offense and harshness of the penalty
o   Sentences imposed on other criminals in the same jurisdiction
o   Sentence imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions
·         State made judgment that protecting public safety requires incapacitating criminals who have already been convicted to two serious or violent crimes, 8A doesn’t prohibit this
LAWRENCE V. TEXASàrequirement of harm in order to be punished
·         Deviant sexual intercourse with member of same sex
·         UNC to criminalize consensual sodomy of members of the same sex
o   EPC – crime just against same sex couples
o   DPC – protected interest as right to privacy on sexual relations and defining rights of a person
·         Requirement of harm – how is society harmed if people of same sex have sex
·         P argues charges against her were not crimes under PA laws/statutes
·         Case preserves the principle of common law defenses and defines what a common law offense is
o   Offenses that affect the commonwealth are those against public police/economyàthose that offend the order of the universe
§  Relates this to Keller’s conduct because the doctrine is applicable to any conduct that’s offensive to the public peace, decency, morals (there’s nothing in PA law that speaks about disposing wrongly of bodies
·         Example of ex post facto law?
o   They knew she killed the babies, but couldn’t get her on it, so they made up the common law crime of indecent disposition of dead body”
·         This is about NOTICEàso public knows that to do in advance
o   We don’t hold people to a standard they don’t know about
·         Problem with common law crimes is that we don’t know what the sentence is
Crimes have elements
1.      Actus reus – what ∆ did or failed to do
2.      Mens rea – guilty state of mind. NOT same as motive. MOTIVE ISN’T ELEMENT OF CRIME
3.      Attendant circumstances – hate crime’s attendant circumstances is the motive
4.      Result – not all crimes have result (ie, attempt)
a.       If there is a result then there must be causation – act must have intended a result
                                                              i.      ∆ pulled trigger intending to go through victim’s head, it did
·         Actus reus – criminal or bad act. Must be voluntary. We don’t convict thoughts
·         Some of all of these conditions are necessary for just punishment
o   Past
o   Voluntary
o   Wrongful or potentially harmful
o   Conduct
o   Specified
o   In advance
o   By statute
·         Desert necessary condition for punishment – retribution limits punishment
o   Moral desert depends on a moral evaluation of actor’s choices
§  Assumes ppl evaluate their choice and desires
§  Punishment should be for those who fail at self-control
·         Legality – criminally punishable conduct should be specified in advance. “no crime without a law, no punishment without a law”
·         Bad intent can only be punished if it is connected to inherently unlawful conduct or demonstrable harm
·         Guy convicted of keeping place with INTENT to sell alcohol
·         possessing something is an actàMPC – if possessor got/received the thing possessed or controlled it for period of time so that he could’ve terminated the possession. Knowledge – where possession is made a crime, the act of possession is almost always construed so as to include only conscious possession
·         Different from situation where someone says they’re going to sell crack and their pockets are full of crack because in this situation possession of a house isn’t illegal and possessing crack is
·         To make a complete crime, there must be both a will and an act. There must be some omission or commission – some overt act is the ONLY sufficient evidence of the criminal intent.
·         State tried to couple an innocent act of keeping a place with an unexecuted intent into a crime
MPC- treats criminal offenses as being the sum of various elements
1.      Conduct – proscribed physical actions, or omission, to fulfill duties
2.      Result – proscribed consequences
3.      Attendant circumstances – any fact prosecution must prove about the conduct (location/time) or legal circumstances (ownership of property)
Objection to criminalizing “act” of possession – it’s not a conduct element but a circumstances. The object is available for use by actor.
Act requirement – must be voluntary
Case is about element of control and voluntary acts
Act can’t satisfy the actus reus requirement unless it is voluntary
P on flight, had gun, plane landed in NY, charged with violating NY’s gun law
Act can’t satisfy actus reus requirement unless it is voluntary
P charged with being drunk in public (been arrested at home and brought outside by cops)
Court instructed jury on insanity, but not involuntary behavior. Instruction didn’t distinguish behavior form a person lacking capacity to appreciate the criminality of the conduct from “automatic behavior” by a person who possess the capacity to appreciate the criminality of the conductàautomatism not insanity, it’s epilepsy
Man has seizure while driving, kills girl. Why liability here and not in Newton and Martin? Mens rea in statute – ∆ doesn’t need to deliberately intend to kill human being. All he needs is conduct that manifests a disregard of the consequences which may ensue from the act and indifference to the rights of others
Dissent – no crime committed. The statute crime of criminal negligence in the operation of a vehicle resulting in death requires the person operate a vehicle recklessly or in a culpably negligent mannerà∆ was driving recklessly; he was unconscious!
            C. POSSESSION
Constructive possession –
Power to exercise control – drugs left in ∆ room with knowledge. Common law – possession occurs when object is in a place accessible to ∆.
            Intent to exercise control – drugs stored in room with intent to transfer them to dealer.
Drugs – SL crime; convicted even if you don’t know you’re in possession of a drug. Convictions based on status
Is it possession of child porn when you just look at it on the screen? Images found in cache, but couldn’t tell where it came from or if it had been accessed intentionally
No, just looking at picture doesn’t mean you possess it and control it. If just the ability to cause an item to appear on a computer screen was enough to constitute control or CP, then any Internet user or person within physical reach of child port can be found guilty of violating the statute
In effect it places the burden of proof on ∆. 3∆s in car that also contained large amount of cocaine in envelop under the front seat
Rational to presume that all occupants of a car are aware of and involved in possession of the drugs when the quantity of the drug is such that it would be extremely unlikely for an occupant to be unaware of its presence.

occasioned by a compulsion symptomatic of the disease
∆ convicted of criminal possession of dangerous drug and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument. Is a UNC to impose criminal penalties on narcotic addict who possess narcotics and associate instruments for his own use? àAffirm conviction. Refuse to recognize drug dependency as defense to criminal responsibility. It could be extended as a defense to other crimes too. Existence of instrumentality was enough to show possession of or intent to possess illicit substance
Actus reus – possession of drugs and syringe
Generally don’t punish status (but Hendricks was locked up for propensity for pedophilia)
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse
Element of MOST criminal offenses
Mens rea manifested by implementing ignoble desire or acting uninfluenced by a noble desire (like concern for safety of others
Mens rea requirement may refer to
1.      Proof d acted with guilty mind
2.      Particular mental state the prosecution must prove to establish ∆ guilt for a particular crime
Problem in defining mens rea is when defense attorney argues ∆ should be acquitted because
1.      She didn’t intend the resultàaccidental
2.      She was unaware of a circumstanceàmade a mistake
1.      Difference between mistakes negating the mental element of the offense and those negating responsibility
a.       ∆ may concede she satisfied the definition of an offense but argue she did so with justification, or that she should be excused
                                                              i.      Claims about what ∆ knew/felt at time she fulfilled act element of an offense may exonerate ∆ by negating mental element of the offense
                                                            ii.      Even if ∆ fulfilled mental element of an offense, her mental or emotional condition may provide an affirmative defense
b.      State must prove mistakes and mental elements BARD
c.       If mistake negates responsibility rather than definition of the offense, the ∆ may have to bear burden of the prrof
2.      Distinction between mistakes of fact and mistakes of law
a.       Ignorance of the law is no excuseàif the criminal law genuinely punishes morally blameworthy behavior, the mere fact that a particular offender expected to escape punishment for her conduct provides no moral reason not to punish her
b.      MPCàignorance that conduct constitutes an offense can be excused if
                                                              i.      Government hasn’t provided clear notice of the law or
                                                            ii.      If an official has misinformed an individual about its meaning
∆ guilty of carrying loaded gun. He wasn’t aware the rifle was loaded (trial court said this was inadmissible)
Court – knowledge that weapon is loaded isn’t an element of the offense of carrying a loaded gun
Negligent actor – one who acts unreasonably; doesn’t act like a reasonable person would in similar situation. ∆ was in a position to avert the public danger. Carrying loaded gun in ignorance may pose more of a threat to public safety than person who knowingly carries loaded gun (He may be more culpable, but is he REALLY culpable because he didn’t have the INTENT to possess a loaded gun in public
Regulatory measures emphasize social betterment instead of punishment for crimes. When one deals with others and his negligence may be dangerous to them, the law may require punishment for his ignorance. Injustice of penalizing innocent seller v. exposing innocent purchaser to danger of the drugàlatter more important to avoid. Crime here didn’t depend on mental element, but on forbidden acts or omissions
Pure strict liability offenses are unusual because most conduct terminology implies some awareness of what one’s doing (except possession, omission, causation).