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Criminal Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Binder, Guyora

                        Professor Binder Fall 2007:
                                    Criminal Law Outline
 
 
 
I.                   Just Punishment
 
a.       The purposes and limits of punishment
1.      Utilitarianism: Maximize benefit to society
i. Jeremy Bentham: “Laws should take the form of legislatively enacted codes, aiming to achieve the greatest happiness and least pain for the greatest number”. 
              
ii. Limit on punishment
              
iii. Deterrence: punish to convince the general community to avoid criminal conduct in the futureà only works if people are aware of it.
 
iv. Rehabilitation: help reform criminal, this was the original goal of prisons
 
v. Incapacitation: takes away the power of doing injury
 
2.      Retributivism: punish the morally culpable and punish them
   proportionally to the crime they committed
 
i. Limit on punishment
John Rawls
Affirmative justification for punishment
Does not stress deterrence.
 
ii. Proportionality: Ewing v. California: The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit a state from sentencing a repeat felon to a prison term of 25 years to life under the state’s “Three strikes and you’re out law”. (Was not cruel and unusual punishment to send him to jail when he stole golf clubs.)
 
iii. Sentencing guidelines: Apprendi v. New Jersey A fact, other than a prior conviction, that increases the sentence for a crime beyond the statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
 
 
 
II.                The Elements of the Criminal Offense:
 
All crimes have basic common elements: 1) a voluntary act: actus reus 2) a culpable intent mens rea, 3) concurrence between the actus reus and the mens rea, and 4) causation of the harm
 
a.       The Criminal Act
1.      Actus Reus: a voluntary act the defendant must have committed.
 
Proctor v. State: there was no actus reus in violation of the statute. He kept a place with intent to sell liquor but there was no evidence he sold any. Mere intent is not sufficient to hold him criminally liable. (A criminal conviction requires an overt act). Circumstance elements adding higher penalties can be added (the victim is a police officer).
 
a.       thoughts (never punishable as crimes) and words (sometimes punishable if form a conspiracy, or encouraging-aiding in the commission of a crime)
 
b.      Possession can be the voluntary act (drugs)
must be knowledgeable of the possession
MPC§2.01 (4) says that possession can be a criminal act only if the defendant knew he had possession of the object, and “was aware of his control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate his possession.  
 
United States v. Maldonado: Maldono was convicted of possession of cocaine and intent to distribute even though he is not in the room with it because he has the power to control the drugs. He has “constructive possession”; the power and intention to exercise control or dominion and control over an object not in one’s “actual” possession.
 
 
c.       Omissions: a failure to act will usually not create criminal liability.
There is liability only where there is either: 1) a statute which explicitly makes it a crime to omit the act in question; or 2) a duty found upon a special relationship e.g. a parent has the legal obligation to protect his child from the elements, sickness, starvation, third persons etc. 3) a contractual duty: a lifeguard must rescue those who are drowning. 4) voluntary assumption of care: e.g. a person who stops and initially administers care to someone on the road may not abandon the injured party. 5) placing another in a position of peril
Jones v. United States: Woman gives baby to a friend to care for and the baby is not taken care of and dies. She had a duty to act because she assumed care for the baby. Duty arose out of contract.
People v. Beardsley case: Defendant and mistress went on drunken weekend and she overdosed on morphine towards the end of it and she didn’t save her. Court said he had no duty to render aid to her because she knew the risk involved and had “ample experience in such affairs”. If relationship is casual there will be less of a duty to assist.
                                                           
Commonwealth v. Cali : defendant started a fire and didn’t call the fire department. Court convicted of arson. If the danger is caused by the defendant then there is a duty to act
 
2.      Requirement of Voluntariness
MPC §2.01(2) lists 3 types of acts which it holds to be involuntary:
a)      reflex or convulsion:
 
Huey Newton: Black panther kills officer after being shot by a cop and losing consciousness he shoo

Code section 6 declares that “no act or omission” accomplished after the code has taken effect “is criminal or punishable except as prescribed or authorized by the code, or by some statutes which it specifies in force and as not affected by its provisions or by some ordinance. (Essential part of due process is fair warning).
 
Rogers v. Tennessee: Tennessee stabbed Bowdery in the hear and put him in a coma. 15 months late he died from kidney failure. Tennesse argued the “year and a day rule”, where one had to die within a year and a day for it to be deemed murder. Roger’s ends up losing because court says that you can alter the meaning of criminal law through interpretation as long as the new interpretation is not unexpected or indegensible.
 
Bouie v. City of Columbia: Two black people sit down at a lunch counter and refuse to leave on demand and were convicted of violating a criminal trespass statute.the limitations on ex post facto judicial decisions are inherent in the notion of due process. Retroactive application of the State’s criminal trespass statute to store patrons violated due process.
 
5.      Specificity
Chicago v. Morales: Chicago Gang Ordinance struck down for lack of specificity. The statute for “loitering” was defined and deemed to be too vague and would have to be determined by the polices and fails to give sufficient notice regarding the type of conduct prohibited.
 
b.      The Guilty Mind:
Due Process requires that a criminal offense is defined in the statute. A special class of offenses do not have to abide by this section: when it is a public safety and health risk (can be punishable despite the absence of culpability or criminal negligence p161).
 
1.      Requirement of a Guilty Mind:
Punishment depends on proof that the defendant acted with a guilty mind, or with a particular mental state to establish the defendant’s guilt.