Criminal Law Outline
Deguzman: Criminal Law Fall 14.
§ A “crime” is “any social harm defined and made punishable by law.”
Ø Theories of Punishment
§ Two Types
¨ Utilitarianism holds that the general object of all laws is to augment the total happiness of the community by excluding, as much as possible, everything that subtracts from that happiness, i.e., everything that causes “mischief” (pain).
· Role of Punishment
¨ Deterrence: Therefore, the pain of punishment is undesirable unless its infliction is likely to prevent a greater amount of pain in the form of future crime.
¨ General Deterrence
Ø D is punished to send the message to society that crime does not pay
¨ Specific Deterrence
Ø D is punished to deter her from committing the crime in the future
Ø the criminal law can prevent future crime by reforming an individual, by providing her with employment skills, psychological aid, freedom from addiction, etc., so that she will not want or need to commit offenses in the future.
¨ Punishment of a wrongdoer is justified as a deserved response to wrongdoing.
¨ retributivists punish because of the wrongdoing— the criminal gets his just deserts— regardless of whether such punishment will deter future crime.
· Moral Desert
¨ wrongdoing creates a moral disequilibrium in society, Proportional punishment of the wrongdoer—“ paying his debt”— brings him back into moral equilibrium.
· Free will
¨ As long as a person has freely chosen to commit an offense, punishment is justified. To the extent that a person lacks free choice, punishment is morally wrong.
§ Proportionality of Punishment
¨ A general principle of criminal law is that punishment should be proportional to the offense committed.
· Utilitarian interpretation
¨ punishment is proportional if it involves the infliction of no more pain than necessary to fulfill the law’s deterrent goal of reducing a greater amount of crime.
¨ punishment should be proportional to the harm caused on the present occasion, taking into consideration the actor’s degree of culpability for causing the harm.
Principle of Legality
The principle of legality is that there should be no crime without punishment and that there should be no punishment without law.
The three interrelated corollaries of legality are:
1. Criminal statutes should be understandable to reasonable law abiding citizens
2. Statutes should be crafted so that they do not delegate basic policy matters to policemen, judges and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis
3. The principle of lenity: Judicial interpretation of ambiguous statutes should be based in favor of the accused.
Requirement of previously defined conduct
The dissent of Commonwealth v. Mochan explains why the first element is necessary.
A PA court convicted Mochan of intending “to debauch and corrupt and further devising and intending to harass, embarrass and vilify”. While his acts were not punishable under the PA penal code the court upheld his conviction because it could be punished under the common law. The court held that while there was no exact precedence for the crime common law was broad enough to encompass it because the common law rule allowed for offenses that offended public morality to be punished.
The dissent state the need for the legislature to determine what injurious to public morality. If the court could decide what acts offended the public morality then it would usurp the power of the legislature.
The dissent conceded that acts could be punished under the common law, but it was not the co
rms of art with special meaning?
b. Meaning from CONTEXT
i. What light does the context of the words shed on their meaning?
ii. Different levels of context:
1. The rest of the provision that contains the words in issue;
2. The entire statute that contains the provision;
3. Use of the words in related statutes;
c. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
i. What did the words mean to those who enacted the statute or developed the common law? (What were the events that lead to the enactment of the statute? What is the amendment history; etc.
a. 2 levels:
i. The SPECIFIC PURPOSE of the particular words, clause, or provision in issue; and
ii. GENERAL PURPOSE of the statute as a whole.
b. SOURCES OF PURPOSE:
i. TEXT, including the particular words & context;
ii. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY, including historical context, events during the enactment process, legislative committee reports, sponsor statements, comments of other legislators, changes in language as it passed through the legislature, rejected proposals, legislative hearings, legislative inaction, etc.;