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Criminal Law
Temple University School of Law
Natali, Louis M.

CRIMINAL LAW OUTLINE – Prof. Natali Fall 2010
IBR = incorporated by reference
* Criminal Law is distinguished from all other fields of law b/c of the sanctions it can impose: (1) loss of liberty and (2) moral stigmatization.
General Principles
a.       Burden of proof = beyond a reasonable doubt (BARD)
                                                              i.      Rests w/the prosecution
                                                            ii.      Every fact necessary to convict must be proven BARD
                                                          iii.      Reasons for BARD standard
1.      to justify the loss of liberty
2.      to justify the loss of good name (stigmatization)
3.      necessary to gain public respect and confidence in the system
b.      Common reasons for appeal
                                                              i.      Jury instruction error – judge erred in giving or not giving instructions to jury → new trial
                                                            ii.      Evidentiary – error in admission/exclusion of evidence → new trial
                                                          iii.      Prosecutorial misconduct → new trial
                                                          iv.      Sufficiency of evidence – evidence produced is insufficient to justify the conviction; a demurrer; even if all the facts are true, it still does not constitute a crime→ acquittal
c.       Reasons for punishment
                                                              i.      Retribution
                                                            ii.      Deterrence – special and general
                                                          iii.      Rehabilitation
                                                          iv.      Incapacitation
d.      Three principles limit distribution of punishment:
                                                              i.      culpability (to safeguard conduct w/out fault from condemnation as criminal)
                                                            ii.      proportionality (to differentiate on reasonable grounds between serious and minor offenses)
                                                              i.      legality (to give fair warning of the nature of conduct declared to constitute an offense)
II.                Elements of a Crime → Culpability
a.      Identity + Actus Reas +  Mens Rea + Causation = Crime (unless justification or excuse)
b.      Actus Reas – evil act; culpable conduct
                                                              i.      AR requires a voluntary and conscious act or an omission if there is a legal duty (by status or by contract)
1.      D is NOT guilty if action is involuntary
a.       MPC §2.01(2) The following are not voluntary acts within the meaning of this Section:
                                                                                                                                      i.      A reflex or convulsion;
                                                                                                                                    ii.      A bodily movement during unconscious or sleep;
                                                                                                                                  iii.      Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion;
                                                                                                                                  iv.      A bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual.
2.      Unconsciousness cannot be self-induced (if you voluntarily drink or do drugs, this will not be a blanket defense)
                                                            ii.      Overt Conduct
1.      Martin v. State – D convicted of public intoxication in an instance where the police took D from his home to a public place; AC reversed b/c he did not voluntarily go to public place
2.      People v. Newton – murder suspect claimed he lost consciousness after being shot in abdomen and doesn’t remember shooting police officer thereafter; unconsciousness is a defense when it isn’t voluntary
                                                          iii.      Omission
1.      Pope v. State – witness to child abuse was under no legal duty to act; (mother left baby in D’s care, and she let him die from malnutrition); gov’t alleged status relationship
2.      Moral duty ≠ legal duty
3.      Failure to act may constitute a breach of duty when:
a.       statute imposes a duty of care
b.      certain status relationship between parties
c.       one party assumes a contractual duty to another
d.      one party voluntarily assumes the care of another
c.       Mens Rea – evil mind
                                                              i.      4 types of Mens Rea + SL:
1.      Purpose → a conscious intent to bring about a particular result; requires subjective intent to commit the crime
2.      Knowledge → requires subjective awareness of the result; a practical certainty that this will occur
3.      Recklessness → requires conscious disregard of the risk; foresee the possibility but consciously decide to take the risk; subjective awareness
a.       To evaluate recklessness look at:
                                                                                                                                      i.      Nature of the risk
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Awareness of the risk
                                                                                                                                  iii.      Justification for taking the risk
4.      Negligence → substantial, unjustifiable risk that deviates from the reasonable person standard; objective test, D should have been aware and failed to exercise reasonable standard of care
5.      Strict liability → absence of a mental state; based on absolute duty
                                                            ii.      If no mental state given in statute, read in the minimum MR (recklessness), as we do not punish stupid (negligent) criminals
                                                          iii.      Take mental state that is provided (or read in recklessness) and apply to all the attendant circumstances
                                                          iv.      Regina v. Cunningham
1.      Facts: as a result of removing gas meter, D partially asphyxiated person who lived in the adjacent house
2.      Issue: jury instructions erroneous to convict if conduct was malicious instead of asking to find on foreseeability that acts would cause the harm
3.      Holding: recklessness standard required (subjectively aware of risk and decides to take it anyway)
4.      Reasoning: malicious = recklessness as defined here
                                                            v.      Regina v. Faulkner
1.      Facts: sailor stealing rum accidentally caused fire on ship
2.      Issue: jury instructions to convict if they found D engaged in stealing rum and fire resulted; strict liability theory
3.      Holding: must establish mens rea of intention or recklessness; foreseeability or probable consequence
                                                          vi.      Santillanes v. New Mexico
1.      Facts: D accidentally cut nephew’s neck w/knife during altercation w/3rd party; convicted of child abuse
2.      Issue: jury instructions for standard definition of negligence in civil liability instead of criminal negligence
3.      Holding: mens rea element of negligence in child abuse statute requires criminal negligence → substantial and unjustifiable risk, gross deviation from the norm
4.      Reasoning: doctrine of lenity – when statute is ambiguous it is construed in favor of D – want to punish morally culpable conduct
                                                        vii.      Jewell v. U.S. – case of willful blindness
1.      Facts: D enters U.S. w/marijuana, claims he didn’t know it was there
2.      Issue: should jury be instructed that positive knowledge of marijuana is required to convict?
3.      Holding: under mens rea

eration and stigma – requires mens rea element
                                                          vi.      Staples v. U.S.
1.      Facts: Gun owner charged w/possession of firearm b/c it fired automatically; claims he didn’t know that
2.      Issue: whether conviction requires proof that D knew about automatic firing capability
3.      Holding: knowledge of the automatic firing is required b/c it is a criminal statute and it’s not unlawful to own a gun
4.      Reasoning: people have the right to possess a gun and this would criminalize a broad range of innocent conduct
                                                        vii.      State v. Guminga
1.      Facts: waitress serves alcohol to underage person w/out asking for ID; employer is vicariously liable
2.      Issue: whether a conviction under vicarious liability is a violation of due process
3.      Holding: yes b/c it isn’t fair to permit a conviction for something D didn’t have knowledge of or engage in
4.      Reasoning: Conviction could impede liberty in the future; go into his criminal history and work against him in sentencing for future offense; jail penalty is prohibited w/out mens rea b/c it imposes guilt w/out any responsibility
f.        Mistake of law
                                                              i.      Malum prohibitum – something a law prohibits (regulatory)
                                                            ii.      Malum in se – evil in itself (murder, burglary, rape)
                                                         iii.      People v. Marrero
1.      Facts: prison worker arrested for carrying gun in social club
2.      Issue: does his mistake of law about definition of “peace officer” in the statute constitute an affirmative defense?
3.      Holding: court holds that D’s reading of “peace officers” was incorrect and his mistake of law isn’t a defense
4.      Reasoning: b/c mistake of law defense encourages ignorance and would bring false claims of misunderstanding of the law
                                                          iv.      Cheek v. U.S.
1.      Facts: D charged w/tax evasion
2.      Issue: was it error for TC to instruct jury to ignore D’s claims that he didn’t believe wages were income or that he was a taxpayer? that tax laws were unconstitutional?
3.      Holding:  court held that all that is required is an honest belief that D didn’t have duty; however his claim of unconstitutionality evidenced that he knew of the duty and just didn’t agree with it
4.      Reasoning: “willful” element of statutes requires gov’t to prove (1) law imposed duty (2) D knew of duty (3) D voluntarily and intentionally violated duty
                                                            v.      Lambert v. California
1.      Facts: D didn’t know about statute requiring convicted persons to register within 5 days of entering LA
2.      Issue: is mistake of law a valid defense? If not, does that violate due process?
3.      Holding: yes, requires actual knowledge (mens rea) of the duty to register or proof of the probability of such knowledge before conviction
Reasoning: distinguishes this case from others – (1) wholly passive conduct (actus reas was one of omission) (2) Malum prohibitum (conduct not morally blameworthy) (3) innocent people could be caught (4) balancing uniformity of enforcement to individual injustice