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Criminal Law
Temple University School of Law
Strazzella, James A.

Criminal Law


Fall 2013

1. Why we Punish

a. Comm. v. Ritter- Killed lover after spending all his money on her. Found guilty of Murder 1, TC deciding between life and death. Need rational, not arbitrary basis on which to decide. Court decided life. Look for the minimum level of punishment that will take care of duty.

i. Reform- to change evil doer. No applicable here, will no longer be in contact with society

ii. Retribution- looks at past not future and is vindictive. Bad reasoning, can’t undo what has been done.

iii. Restraint- TO prevent further crimes and protect society. Letting man with criminal tendencies go free is like letting free a wild animal. If D depraved man, and conditions of murder so inhuman that he is a continuing danger to society, execution justifiable; if not just restrain. No deprivation here, or thirst for crime, imprisonment enough.

iv. Deter- Punishment ends to means

1. Special Deterrence- may prevent that criminal from doing crime again in future

2. General Deterrence- may prevent others from doing the crime in the future.

3. Here, Death a deterrent for mental not emotional killings, such as here. If murder was planned, it may be justified to deter others. In murder of frenzy or passion, can’t deter; does not result from a cost benefit analysis of committing the crime. D also did not value his life, so with people like him, using the death sentence deters less than life sentence

v. For crimes of murder two most relevant factors are restraint and deterrence.

1. Killing and man were not savage or depraved so life imprisonment ok.

2. Killing not result of weighing cost and benefit of crime, so using death penalty to deter similar killings has no purpose.

b. Retributionist View- People desire it, looks backwards

i. Justified on seriousness of crime, not benefits of punishment

ii. Only guilty should be punished

iii. Criticisms-

1. Criminal usually commits crime out of need, not just breaking laws unnecessarily.

2. Punishment does not really repay for the crime

3. Annulment- Crime still exists

4. Fair play- focues on advantage in not being inhabited by following the law, not the wrongness of act.

c. Utilitarian View- Punishment serves purposeful forward looking purpose

i. Law to exclude mischief, punishment is mischief and evil, but has the utility of preventing a greater evil.

ii. No innocent man should be framed and used as an example.

iii. Criticisms-

1. Pays insufficient attention to individual rights

2. Disregards connection between punishment and moral blame for crime

d. Statutory Solutions-

i. MPC- 1.02(2)- Major general purpose of provisions governing sentencing are

1. Preventing commission of offenses (deterrence)

2. Promote correction of offenders (reformation)

3. Safeguard offenders against excessive, disproportionate, or arbitrary punishment

ii. NY Penal law- 1.05

1. Deterrence

2. Reformation

3. Incapacitation

iii. Cali Penal Code-

1. Punishment

2. Fixed sentences in proportion to seriousness of offense determined by legislature

iv. New Model Penal Code Approach-

1. Renders all sentences within a range of severity proportional to the gravity of offense, harm done to victim and blameworthiness of offender

2. When feasible, to deter, reform, incapacitate, and reintegrate back into community

3. Render sentences no more severe than necessary to achieve these rules

e. Complexities of Crime control

i. Deterrence-

1. Assumes criminal calculate cost and benefits of crime

a. Large portion of crimes based on impulse

b. To deter

i. Criminal must know rule

ii. Must see cost greater than benefit

iii. Must be able to bring knowledge to bear when doing offense

c. Criminals barely ever fit this criteria

d. Increased punishment for crimes may actually casue more crimes

i. If drug sentences go up, dealer may raise price to make it worth it

ii. Junkie may have to commit more crimes to pay for increase

e. More sever the punishment, the less willing witnesses, and juries may be to help convict

2. May be better to increase risk of conviction than the conviction

3. Few doubt crime would increase with no punishment

ii. Reformation-

1. Started with Quakers

2. Punishment justified not because of how much better criminal will be but because of how much better society will be when he is treated

3. Not just to retrain them for the streets but for better lives

a. Takes away resources from others who need them and are more deserving

4. Medical view- Criminals are sick and need help, sentence is the cure

a. Led to increases in duration of sentence

b. Too costly and lenient

5. Takes more than just learning a skill to break criminal habits

iii. Incapacitation-

1. Benefits

a. Punishes offender

b. Expresses moral disapproval

c. D gets education and drug treatment

2. Society wins-

a. Decline in crime because of those incarcerated i.e 12 crimes a year for some felons

i. But low level drug dealers don’t fit description

ii. Decrease may not occur as some crimes done by gangs not individuals

f. Regina v. Dudley- Cannibalism while stranded. D argued not murder, as it was necessary. Ct said killing willful and not justified, sentenced to death. Looked to created a general deterrence as it was common at time, but never was prosecuted.

i. Can only take a life when other person is attempting or threatening yours.

1. Should rather take your own life than kill someone else’s

ii. D points to cases where it is OK to steal to not starve

1. Not correct, still a felony

2. No proof that help would not have come

iii. No excuses in law for killing this situation

1. Dangerous to permit this here, bad precedent for others

a. Who judges when necessary?

b. By what measure

iv. Here act was willful murder, not justification

1. No right to declare temptation as an excuse.

2. Elements of a Crime

a. Actus Reas- culpability requires some voluntary, physical act or omission by the defendant

i. MPC 2.01

1. A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or omission to perform something to which he is physically capable.

2. Following are not voluntary acts

a. Reflex or convulsion

b. Bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep

i. Cogdon case- Killed daughter while dreaming

ii. R. v. Parks-Law concerned with punishing conscious mind-

c. Conduct during hypnosis

i. Dependency and helplessness too pronounced

d. Bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual.

3. Liability for the commission of an offense may not be based on an omission unaccompanied by action unless:

a. The omission is expressly made sufficient by the law defining the offense; or

b. A duty to perform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by law.

4. Possession is an act, if 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 possession.

ii. Voluntary Act

1. MPC 2.01(1)

2. Martin v. State- D charged with public drunkenness when pulled from house by PO.

a. Statute made no mention of voluntary act, but it is read in the statute.

b. D’s charged lacked voluntary aspect of crime; he was taken out of house by the officer.

i. Law seeks to punish for acts done voluntarily

3. Looking at theories of punishment, deterrence wont work as can’t deter an involuntary act, retribution wont work as he will be blamed for it but he had no choice and is not morally culpable and incarceration won’t work as restricting him will not prevent it from happening again.

4. Notes

a. Jones v City of LA- Illegal to sit, lie or sleep on street or sidewalk. Basically made it illegal to be homeless. Conviction overturned, can’t punish for someone’s status.

iii. Involuntary Act

1. MPC 2.01(2)-

2. People v Newton- D shot PO while blacked out. Ct overturned conviction; when not self-induced, unconsciousness is a complete defense to criminal homicide

a. Not just for comas, but when D acts when not aware they are acting.

b. When evidence of involuntary unconsciousness, refusal to instruct jury on the subject and it being a complete defense is a prejudicial error.

3. Notes

a. Law does not punish for thoughts alone, Cant deter involuntary movement

b. Involuntary acts are never blameworthy

c. Habit is treated as voluntary act in MPC

4. State v. Decina- Epileptic seizures are involuntary, but can be punished as D knew he was subject to attacks, but consciously disregarded the risk.

a. Conscious decisions which cause later unconscious conduct for jury to determine

5. Time frame question

a. If court can find voluntary ac by D accompanied by at least at that time wit

include awareness or intent, process of proving it is often facilitated by resort to various kinds of presumptions

a. Firing at vital part of body or firing multiple times can show give inference of intent to kill.

b. Can’t make same inference if only shot once without efforts to aim.TO allow so would dilute burden of rreaosnable doubt and shift burden to D.

3. Presumptive inference- Judge informs jury to draw factual conclusions that they are permitted but not required to draw.

a. Used when the conclusion is more likely than not

b. Barnes v. US- upheld inference to establish knowledge- possession of recently stolen property, if not satisfactorily explained, is ordinarily a circumstances from which the jury may infer that the person in possession knew that the property had been stolen.

vii. MPC- 2.02

1. Minimum Requirements of Culpability. Except as provided in Section 2.05, a person is not guilty of an offense unless he acted purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, as the law may require, with respect to each material element of the offense.

2. Kinds of Culpability Defined

a. Purposefully-

i. If it his conscious object to engage in the conduct of that nature or cause such a result, and

ii. If the element involves an attendant circumstance, he is aware of the circumstance or hopes it exists.

b. Knowingly-

i. If the element involves an attendant circumstance, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that the circumstance exists

ii. If the element involves a result of his conduct, he must be certainty that that result will occur.

c. Recklessly- Consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the element exists or will occur. Must be a gross deviation from the standard conduct that an ordinary person would observe in the actors situation.

d. Negligently- When D should be aware o a substantial and unjustifiable risk. The actors failure to perceive it involves a gross deviation.

3. Default Culpability- When not mentioned by law, element is established if person acts purposely, knowingly or recklessly.

4. Prescribed Culpability REquiremnet Applies to All material Elements- When culpability detailed for commission of offense and does not distinguish among the material elements, that culpability applies to all elements unless a contrary purpose plainly appears.

5. Subsubstitutes for Negligence, Recklessness and Knowledge- When negligence suffices, Recklessness, knowledge and purpose are allowed.

6. Requirement of Purpose Satisfied if Purpose is Conditional- When a particular purpose is an element of an offense, the element is established even if the purpose is conditional, unless the condtion negatives the harm or evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.

7. Requirement of Knowledge is satisfied by Knowledge of High Probability – When offense requires offense to be committed willfully, it is satisfied if person is aware of a high probability of its existence unless he actually believes it does not exist.

8. Requirement of Willfulness Satisfied by Acting Knowingly- requirement of willfully committed offense is satisfied if a person acts knowingly with respect to that element unless a purpose to impose further requirements appears.

viii. Willfull Blindness

1. US v Jewel- Willfull blindness case, D drove truck into US with drugs on board. Knew secret apartment that may have drugs but avoided checking it to avoid responsibility. Jury instructed that D could be convicted for crime that requires knowingly if he was his unawarenss was a result of his deliberate attempt to disregard learning the nature of what was in his car.

a. Proper instruction under MPC 2.202(7)