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Criminal Law
UMKC School of Law
Eckhardt, William G.

Common Law as a Source of Criminal Law
7 original offenses: mayhem, homicide, rape, larceny, burglary, arson and robbery
Used to be a difference b/w crimes and torts, but now most can be punished both ways
Limitations of the Criminal Law
Void for vagueness: requires the criminal law to be sufficiently clear to reasonable people
Rule of lenity: court must construe criminal statutes strictly – resolve doubt in favor of the defendant
Ambiguity in the language should be resolved in D’s favor
Ex Post Facto: Can’t criminalize an ant that was previously considered legal
Sources of Criminal Law
Statutes (MPC, etc.)
Administrative Regulations
4 times as many as statutes
7 times as many as judicial law
Common Law (rare)
Justification for Punishment
Weapons society uses to prevent harmful conduct
Purposes of the criminal law
Prevent social harm
Control social misfits
Safeguard non-harmful conduct
Give warning of what is an offense
Differentiate b/w severe and minor offenses
Punishment justified by the moral culpability of those who receive it
Don’t have to penalize by doing to the criminal the crime that was committed
Moral guilt of the offender is necessary condition of punishment
Morally culpable victims need to be punished
Gives people a duty to punish
System in society in which everybody voluntarily sets upon themselves a system of both burden and benefit
Threat of punishment deters potential offenders in the community
Specific deterrent: leaves individual offenders less likely to engage in the conduct
Has been shown that increase in convictions will deter the most
General deterrent: scare future offenders from doing the same act (U.S. v. Bergman – skilled man, committed a crime, how long to punish?)
Threat of punishment through stigma and expressive condemnation
Influence of social group sanctions are most powerful determinants of conduct
General deterrence
Deter the public/potential offenders
Specific deterrence
Actual criminals
3 stages: scare, determine type of criminal and base rehab on that and gauge seriousness of the crime b4 imposing sentence
Prepare to live on the streets again and benefit society again
Must get to the “why” the crime was committed
Poverty, etc à get people education, crime may go away
Not proven to necessarily work
Requires longest period of punishment
Attempts to prevent future crimes
Is there a difference b/w morality and the law?  If so, where is the line drawn?
State v. Chaney – military man, seemingly a good person, convicted of rape – given a seriously reduced sentenced based on what was recommended – do good people get more favor from the courts?)
Theory of 3-strikes-and-you’re-out
You commit any felony 3 times, you’re automatically sent to jail for life – many states have amended it to say only violent crimes
Legislature typically takes a statutory crime and sets limits on it
People argue that this is too black-and-white
Determinitive sentencing alternative
Time limits for crimes is minimized, but paroles are revoked altogether
Adopted in 9 states, varations adopted in 7 others
Federal Sentencing guidelines
No parole, max and min w/ 25% of each other
General deterrent to crime – reflect crime, criminal and allow for training while in prison
à Mitigating circumstances can seriously affect sentencing terms (U.S. v. Johnson)
Is there such a thing as public morality?
Yes – abortion, euthanasia, etc.
All that is legal is not moral and all that is moral is not legal
If private morals (actions) affect the public good, criminal law may “reach its tentacles” into it and attempt to fix it
Should protect people that can’t give consent
Difference b/w criminal and civil punishment
Under criminal law, a person can lose his liberty only after committing a crime
Gov’t can sometimes take away civil liberties after committing a criminal act
Rare – usually mentally insane people
Every state has an involuntary civil commitment law
Very short period – must make a determination if it needs to be extended
Usually family member
Starting the Analysis
Findings and purpose
Guts: relevance – do the facts apply?
Constitutional? – On face/As applied
Definition of offense
Isolate definition
Prosecutor’s Prima Facie Case (what the prosecutor must prove)
Material Elements of a Crime
Conduct – considered actus reus
Act, omission or possession
Result – considered actus reus
Typically not specifi

ly made sufficient by the law defining the defense
                                                               i.      MPC 220.1 (3) p. 1085
Imposed by law à parents let child starve
Possession is an act: MPC 2.01 (4) – requirement for knowledge
Most crimes do not include a result element consequence must be caused by defendant’s conduct: MPC 211.1 (1) (b) p. 1079
Look for the word causes
Not going to be there in every crime
External conditions that must exist: MPC 223.3 (1): Theft by unlawful taking p. 1088
MPC 213.1 (1): Rape p. 1082
Problems of Interpretation
Always look to definition
General MPC 1.13
MPC Part II Definitions of specific crime – any section followed by number “0”
Purposes and Principles
Voluntary Act
Must be voluntary: MPC 2.01 (1)
Look at negative: MPC 1.13 (3), MPC 2.01 (2)
Omission: MPC 2.01 (3)
Pope v. State
Lady kills her daughter while at Pope’s residence – Pope did nothing to stop it
Court determines she is not guilty b/c she was not guardian of the child – was  an omission, but one she was not legally required to do
Misprision of a crime
Failure to report a crime
Some states do penalize this – “Good Samaritan” code (RI, Vermont, WI)
Higher sense of duty for family members
Barber v. Superior Court
Must try to save a patient’s life, once it is determined as non-beneficial, doctor can stop trying to save their life
Mens Rea
People that know they’re doing something wrong: a guilty mind
Traditional mens rea: truly immoral person
Statutory mens rea: mental state of a person required by statute to be guilty
Prove it by inference, actions, words and other facts related to thought process
Specific Kinds of Mens Rea
Transferred Intent (MPC § 2.03)
“Intent follows the bullet” – but only follows on the same level as the original intent