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Criminal Law
UMKC School of Law
Berger, Mark

I. Perspectives on Punishment
A. Retribution – Punishment imposed as repayment or revenge for the offense committed, intimately tied to blameworthiness
B. Prevention – Punishment intended to prevent a repetition of wrongdoing by disabling the offender – Deterrence
C. Rehabilitation – the process of seeking to improve a criminal’s character and outlook so he can function in society without committing other crimes
D. Incapacitation – the action of disabling or depriving legal capacity
E. Principles Limiting Punishment
1. Culpability – “to safeguard conduct that is without fault from condemnation as criminal”
2. Legality- “to give fair warning of the nature of the conduct declared to constitute an offense”
3. Proportionality – “to differentiate on reasonable grounds between serious and minor offenses”

II. Actus Reas – Physical, or external component of the crime

Common Law

Model Penal Code

Definition of Voluntary
“A movement of the human body that is, willed or directed by the actor”

Definition of Voluntary
“Not guilty unless a voluntary act/omission to perform an act when he is physically capable”

Not Voluntary Acts
1. During sleep or unconsciousness
2. When actor has no conscious control
3. Seizure (and no prior history)
4. If there is one voluntary act in a series of involuntary acts one may be held responsible

Not Voluntary Acts
1. Reflex or Convulsion
2. Bodily movement during sleep or unconsciousness
3. Conduct during hypnosis or suggestion
4. A bodily movement that is not the product of the effort or determination of the actor

1. A Voluntary Act or Omission
2. That Causes
3. Social Harm
Example: A picks up a knife and stabs
(voluntary act) B, resulting in (causing)
the death of B (social harm).

Elements §1.13(9) (i-iii)
i. Conduct (Act)
ii. Attendant Circumstance – external conditions
iii. Result – consequence

Omission and Legal Duty
1. Relationship (parent-child)
2. Statute (e.g doctors report abuse)
3. Contract to provide care
4. Voluntary Assumption that isolates
5. Creation of Peril
6. Duty to control conduct of another
7. Duty of a landowner

Omission and Legal Duty §2.01(3)
MPC permits an omission or failure to satisfy the conduct element in 2 types of cases
1. Statute states that a failure to act is a crime
2. Duty to act is imposed by civil law

States commonly prohibit mere possession of a certain article and do not require proof of an act

Possession §2.01
“Knowingly procured or received the thing or was aware for a sufficient period of time to be able to terminate possession” not as harsh

A. Voluntary versus Involuntary Cases
1. Martin v. State, D was charged with violation of an offense tha

D liable because he put child in danger and had duty to preserve life.

III. Mens Rea and the Model Penal Code §2.02

Culpability Level


Attendant Circumstance



Ds conscious object to engage in such conduct

D is aware or hopes or believes circumstances exist

Ds conscious object is to cause this result


D is aware his conduct is of this nature

D is aware the circumstances exist

S is aware that the result is practically certain


D consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that he is engaging in this proscribed conduct

D consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the proscribed circumstance exist

D consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur