Deguzman CrimLaw Fall 2010
1) Theories of punishment
a) Utilitarianism – four circumstances affect the value of pain or pleasure: intensity, duration, certainty, and remoteness. Punishment is evil and should only be used to prevent greater evil, and never more than is required to prevent that greater evil.
i) General deterrence – punishment of one will deter others by making them fearful that they will also be punished
ii) Individual deterrence – punishment of a criminal will deter him from committing further crimes in the future
iii) Incapacitation – while an individual is incapacitated, he cannot commit further crimes
iv) Reform – punishment may change the way that a criminal thinks
b) Retributivism – lex talionis, an eye for an eye. Punishment is based on the fact that the criminal has committed a crime and is deserving of punishment to repay society.
i) Assaultive retributivism – criminals should be hated; a criminal has a permanent stamp of societal disapproval
ii) Protective retributivism – because criminals have human rights, it is necessary to punish them in a non-arbitrary way for their crimes; not to do so is a violation of their rights
iii) Culpability retributivism vs harm retributivism – former believes in punishment for bad thoughts/ability to cause harm, latter for the actual harm caused to society
c) Theories in action
i) Dudley and Stevens: sailors were stranded on a boat with little hope of survival. Two decided to sacrifice the weakest in order to save the rest. Held: A person is not allowed to kill another in order to save his own life. There are 3 ways to view
(1) did the right thing/don’t punish(justified)
(2) did the wrong thing/don’t punish(excused)
(3) did the wrong thing/punish
ii) Du: Defendant was working in a liquor store in LA during a time of racial strife. A 15 year old black girl put a bottle of oj into her bag. Defendant accused girl of trying to steal. Got into a fight. Defendant said she was scared for her life, pulled out a gun, shot and killed the girl. Trial judge imposed a minimal sentence on the defendant. Held: A trial judge has discretion to apply a minimal sentence on a defendant. Problem with opinion: Trial judge did not address general deterrence at all, which is required by the sentencing guidelines which are mostly utilitarian.
iii) Gementera: Defendant stole mail and was sentenced to shaming pending psychological review. Held: Shaming is a legitimate mode of punishment since it can deter future crime and rehabilitate the criminal. Shaming cannot be used to humiliate or dehumanize the criminal.
2) Role of Statutes
a) Principle of legality – Nullum crimen sine lege – no crime without law, nullum poena sine lege – no punishment without law. This is the first principle of American criminal law; it is strictly applied and overrides all other principles. There are constitutional implications, and it provides notice to conform behavior to the law.
i) Keeler: Defendant intentionally assaulted his pregnant ex-wife in an attempt to kill the fetus. He succeeded and was charged with murder of the fetus. Held: An unborn but viable fetus is not a “human being” within the definition of the murder statute, and to extend the definition would be a violation of the legality principle. The legislature subsequently changed the statute to consider killing a fetus to be a murder, but this has the effect of not considering a viable fetus to be a human being.
b) Statutory interpretation – courts must interpret statutes in order to apply them
i) Text – meaning of words on their face, meaning of words from their context; use within the statute, use in a related statute, historical context, common law, legislative history
ii) Legislative intent – specific purpose of words or provision; general purpose of the statute as a whole
iii) Principle of lenity – when the wording and intent of a statute can be interpreted multiple ways, it should be interpreted in favor of the defendant.
iv) Expressio unius – by listing several, you exclude the remainder
v) Muscarello: Defendant had a gun in his car. He was under a statute that said “carries a firearm.” Held: “Carries a firearm” is not limited to the carrying of a firearm on the person; it also includes conveyance in a vehicle.
3) Elements of a crime generally: These musts be proved for any criminal conviction .
a) Voluntary act or omission
b) Mens rea (exception: strict liability offenses)
c) Result (if any)
e) Attendant circumstances (if any)
4) Actus reus – includes voluntary act or omission, result, and attendant circumstances
a) Voluntary act or omission: There must be a voluntary act or omission. Common law requires a voluntary act to apply to each element. MPC § 2.01 only requires one voluntary act.
i) Martin – Defendant was drunk in his house. Police officers arrested him and brought him onto a highway where he started cursing. Statute “… and manifests a drunken condition by boisterous discourse.” Held: A person cannot be convicted of a crime when they literally did not act. “Manifest” is not a voluntary act.
ii) Utter – Defendant was living with his son. He got really drunk. Witnesses saw his son stumbling in the hallway and say “Dad stabbed me.” Son died. Defendant doesn’t remember anything; a psychiatrist says that defendants action was a conditioned response from being in the military. Held: An unconscious person is not criminally responsible for acts he performs, but in the instant case there is no evidence that he was unconscious.
iii) Beardsley – Defendant got drunk with his mistress. One night he told her to hide since his wife was returning. She took a large amount of morphine. Defendant carried her to a neighbor’s house and she died from the overdose. He was convicted of manslaughter Held: There is no legal duty to a mistress to summon help if she is dying. There are duties to assist if there is a statutory duty, a status relationship, a contractual duty, voluntarily assumed care and secluded the person to prevent others from rendering aid, or if the defendant creat
n be strict liability. If a defendant commits a strict liability offense with any mens rea even if it is not a violation, he can be charged and convicted of the offense.
7) Mistake of fact – mistakes can negate the mens rea of an offense. Strict liability cannot be negated.
a) Common law –
i) General intent – a reasonable mistake of fact is a defense
ii) Specific intent – any mistake of fact, even if it is unreasonable, is a defense in negating the specific intent element
(1) Navarro – Defendant was convicted of petty theft, the codified common law larceny. He said that he thought the property that he took was abandoned and that he was allowed to take it. Held: Even though defendant’s mistake was unreasonable, the specific intent of “intent to steal” was not present so his conviction is reversed.
b) MPC § 2.04(1) – a mistake is a defense if it negatives the mens rea of a material element. This differentiates between reckless unreasonable mistakes and negligent unreasonable mistakes.
8) Mistake of law – Not usually a defense unless it is a specific intent crime or the defendant was relying on an official interpretation of the law. For specific intent, only different law mistakes are allowed, ie, if you think that property belongs to you, cannot be larceny since no specific intent to steal
a) Marrero – Defendant was a guard at a federal prison. He thought that he was exempt from a firearm licensing statute that exempted peace officers, including guards of penal correctional institutes. Held: Since defendant was relying on his own incorrect interpretation of the law, he is guilty. If he had relied on an official interpretation of the statute, he would have been justified.
b) Cheek- Defendant did not believe in income taxes and did not pay them. He had been told in the past that he had to pay them, but he did not do so. Held: Since income tax criminal penalties are interpreted to be specific intent, defendant’s unreasonable mistake of law would negate the mens rea of willfulness. However, the jury is permitted to disregard a bad faith mistake of law since that would mean that the defendant did act with the requisite mens rea.
9) Causation – not usually contested, but sometimes is if causation is murky. Never an issue in conduct crimes. Most often at issue in murder.
a) Actual cause – actor’s conduct is an actual cause when, but for the actor’s conduct, the result would not have happened (when it did and how it did).