CRIMINAL LAW OUTLINE FALL 2006
A. The purposes of the criminal justice system
2. Removes dangerous people from the community
3. Deters others
a. public trials help set social standards
4. Gives society a chance at rehabilitation
B. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
1. In re Winship- the Supreme Court held that the due process clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged.
a. right of accused to protect his liberty
b. right against stigma
c. public confidence in the standard of proof (respect for the system)
d. Judge Harlan- there is a greater cost to false positives (convicting the
innocent) than false negatives (letting a guilty man go)
C. Two types of defenses
1. Missing element defense- the state failed to prove an element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
2. Affirmative defense- D admits that he did the act, but has a justification or excuse. Burden on D to prove
a. justification- action wasn’t wrongful, but was necessary
b. excuse- the action was wrongful, but the person is not blameworthy
D. Elements of a Crime
1. Conduct- an act or omission
2. Circumstance- surrounding the act (ex.- lack of consent)
3. Result- crime defined by prohibited conduct
II. Actus Reus- culpable conduct. The physical portion of a crime. Voluntary acts or omissions.
3 principles limit the distribution of punishment
culpability- to safeguard conduct that is without fault from condemnation as criminal
legality- to give fair warning of the nature of the conduct declared to constitute an offense
proportionality- to differentiate on reasonable grounds between serious and minor offenses
Overt and voluntary conduct- choice is central to blameworthiness
Involuntary acts= no liability
a. Presumption of a voluntary act- D consciously performs the accused action.
i. act- all bodily movement
ii. voluntary- willful contraction of the muscle
b. Martin v. State- officers arrested D at his home and took him onto the highway, where he used loud and profane language. Thus arrested for violating an Alabama statute- guilty if a person appears in a public place and manifests a drunken condition. The Court of Appeals held that, to be convicted under the statute, a voluntary appearance was presupposed. They therefore refused to convict D, who was involuntarily carried to the highway by the officers.
c. Model Penal Code- “a person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable.”
d. Lord Denning’s involuntary acts
i. automatism- an act which is done by the muscles without any control by the mind (spasm or convulsion)
ii. an act done by a person not conscious of what he is doing (suffering from a concussion, sleepwalking)
e. MPC involuntary acts, Section 2.01. All other acts are voluntary.
i. reflex or convulsion
ii. bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep
iii. conduct during hypnosis
iv. a bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual
v. liability for the commission of an offense may not be based on an omission UNLESS
aa. the omission is expressly made sufficient by the law defining the offense
bb. a duty to perform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by law
Exceptions- voluntary acts
a. MPC- habitual actions done without thought are still voluntary
b. MPC- possession knowledge requirement- possession is voluntary if the person is aware he has the thing he is charged with possessing
i. some courts hold that it is sufficient that the person should have known.
ii. Some jurisdictions have gotten rid of the knowledge requirement altogether
c. Choosing to take an unreasonable risk when the possibility of an involuntary reflex is known. People v. Decina- D, who suffered from epileptic seizures, chose to drive on the highway. Court held that D deliberately took a chance by making a conscious choice to drive, in disregard of the consequences which he knew might follow.
A voluntary act must be accompanied with mens rea. A verbal declaration of mens rea usually not enough. In addition, simple mens
sm without more scientific knowledge- it was concerned about creating a “slippery slope” in regards to involuntariness defenses.
1. Bystander Indifference/ Good Samaritanism- are these omissions legally culpable?
a. Pope v. State- D witnessed a mother attacking and killing her child in D’s home and did not act. The child abuse statute under which D was charged required that the person a) was responsible for the child and b) caused… by act of omission, abuse to the child. The Maryland Court of Appeals held that although D was morally reprehensible, her omission did not constitute a crime because she was not responsible for the supervision of the child.
i. policy implication- the legal liability given to Good Samaritans may act as a disincentive to help
ii. D had no legal duty, like Jones v. United States
b. Murder of Kitty Genovese- a woman was stabbed to death while witnesses did nothing. Led to great public outcry, leading legislatures to consider making it a crime to witness a felony and not report it.
i. RI, VT, and WI made it criminal to refuse to rescue a person in an emergency situation
ii. CA- liability extends only to those who have a duty to control the conduct of the individual who is directly responsible for the abuse. Applies to neglect of the elderly.
iii. Livingston- aid is mandatory when it involves no personal or pecuniary loss.
c. Why bystander indifference occurs
i. danger/ fear of retaliation
ii. unable to quickly select the appropriate type of intervention
iii. the presence of other bystanders- interpreting other people’s indifference as a lack of danger
d. Anglo- American legal tradition generally does not require a person to be a Good Samaritan. “The law does not compel active benevolence between man and man. It is left to one’s conscience whether he shall be the Good Samaritan or not.”