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Criminal Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Ewing, Charles Patrick

25. After a hard day at work as an elementary school teacher, during
which she was berated by her boss, the principal, for failing to
control the children in her class, an angry Cruella jumped into her
car, started the vehicle and then drove through a school playground
crowded with children, screaming “Get out of the way you little
bastards!” All but one of the children got out of Cruela’s path. 
Cutesie, a second grader, was struck by Cruella’s Mercedes and
killed. Which of the following statements best describes the criminal
liability and/or defense applicable in this situation?
(A) Cruella is guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather then murder
because she acted in a state of extreme emotional disturbance.
(B) Cruella is guilty of felony murder, assault with a deadly weapon
(the car) being the underlying felony.
(C) Cruella is guilty of murder because her action posed a grave risk
of death to the children and she acted with a total disregard for
their lives and safety.
(D) Cruella is guilty of criminally negligent homicide because a
reasonable driver would not have acted as she did.
A: A social wrong/harm defined by law and made punishable by law- contains an actus reus and mens rea
·         Key element – criminal law is punishable under the law (taking away of civil liberties); punishment in name of society (vs. civil law where punishment in name of victim)
·         Crime is a harm, but not all harms are crimes
1.             The Purposes of Punishment- (Utilitarianism v. Retribution)
a.      Utilitarianism- Deterrence, Incapacitation, Rehabilitation
                                             i.       basic premise is that punishment itself is evil because it deliberately inflicts harm on a human being; therefore, we should hurt criminals only if some “good” is achieved by the act
                                            ii.      Ex. (a) deterring persons who might be thinking about committing crimes, (b) incapacitating those who if released are likely to commit additional serious and violent crimes, or (c) rehabilitating those who have already committed offenses.
b.       (1) Deterrence
                                             i.      Punish crimes to deter others from acting similarly
1. D can decide not to commit future crimes- specific deterrence
2. other persons, contemplating committing crimes and learning of the threatened punishment, will decide not to do so- general deterrence
                                            ii.      to be effective, deterrence requires that D receive notice of the threat of punishment. However, how members of society learn of the possible punishments threatened if they violate the criminal law is uncertain. (few citizens read the statute books, etc.)
c.         (2) Incapacitation
d.      A second explanation of why we punish is that those who commit criminal acts have rejected important social norms and have thereby demonstrated their willingness to continue to do so in the future. Thus, for the good of those who abide by the law, these offenders may be prevented (incapacitated) from reoffending- a.) Implies we can separate dangerous from non-dangerous b.) costs are staggering
e.         (3) Rehabilitation
                                             i.      Theory holds that offenders can be “changed” into non-offenders if given proper “treatment”; consider the realism of this- not much rehabilitation goes on in prison.
f.         (4) Denunciation
                                             i.      Must denounce behavior; take a moral stand to send message to society
B.    Retribution (as opposed to Utilitarianism)
                                            ii.      Argues that persons who choose to do wrong (commit criminal acts) deserve punishment, and that it should be imposed on them even if it serves no utilitarian purpose [an eye for an eye]  
·         The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens- Ds stranded at sea, and eat weak boy in order to survive. Ds reason that murder was killing 1 for the greater good of the other 3. Punishment was incarceration, released after 6 months. Why? Crown probably recognized that this was a customary practice. If this was a rational decision, was it more qualified of punishment?
·         The case of Alex Carbarga- Reliance on tree frog; molestation; no exposure to outside society; did he know what he was doing was wrong?
à When it is grossly disproportionate, the courts will step in
COMMON LAW: Whatever openly outrages decency and is injurious to public morals is a misdemeanor and punishable by law.
MODERN LAW: Do not legislate from the bench-just because it outrages public decency does not mean it will be punishable by law (no ex post facto laws).
·         Solem v. Helm (1983): Overruled court decision because it was a non-violent crime ($100 bad check) and no possibility of parole. Court adopted test for proportionality: (1) gravity of the offense and harshness of the

erminate his possession
·         Proctor v. State (1918)D convicted of keeping a place w/the intent to unlawfully sell alcohol An intent to commit a crime is not an indictable, and only with an overt act, can one prove criminal intent. The statue under question does not define a crime, and therefore, the defendant is not guilty of any crime.
·         People v. Newton (1973)D on a flight from Bahamas to Luxemburg and possessed a concealed weapon. Pilot became aware of weapon and landed the plane in NYC. D charged with possession of loaded firearm under NY law. Court held not criminal liability by virtue of voluntary act because D not in control of plane, never had plans to pass through jurisdiction of NY, and did not voluntarily land in NY. Act must be voluntary!
·          Martin v. State (1944) D arrested at home then exhibited disorderly conduct when taken out by police. Court reversed conviction of drunkenness in a public place because voluntary appearance was presupposed in statute; held that he could not be blamed for act he was “forced” to perform. Need voluntary act!
1. A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act,
4. Possession is an act, if the possessor knowingly procured or received the thing possessed or was aware of his control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate his possession.
People v. Decina (1956)D, an epileptic, operated a motor vehicle knowing that a seizure could take place at any time. D suffered a seizure while driving and killed 4 people when car went out of control (D unconscious). D appeals from charge of criminally negligence in operating a motor vehicle on ground that you cant operate vehicle when unconscious. Court affirms- (1) the defendant knew he was subject to epileptic seizures and (2) that driving a motor vehicle on a highway under such conditions by himself was dangerous. Therefore, he disregarded his knowledge of the possible risks and is guilty of culpable negligence.