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Criminal Law
UMKC School of Law
O'Brien, Sean D.

All crimes have several basic elements in common:
1) a voluntary act (actus reus)
2) a culpable intent (mens rea)
3) concurrence between the mens rea and the actus reus and
4) causation of harm
Mere thoughts are not punishable as crimes
Possession as a criminal act- mere possession of an object may sometimes constitute the necessary criminal act
Conscious possession- usually must have knowledge of the possession
Not necessary that D have been aware of the object’s illegal or contraband nature
Act must be voluntary to satisfy AR rqmt
Martin v State
Facts: Police officers arrested an intoxicated man at his home, took him onto a highway, and then arrested him for public drunkenness
Rule: A D must perform the physical act for each element of a crime that has an actus reus component.
Reflex or convulsion
Unconsciousness- (does not incl self-induced unconsciousness)
People v Newton
Facts: D was accused of committing manslaughter after allegedly shooting and killing a police officer during a struggle with the police.
Rule: When a person commits an act that is criminal if done voluntarily, lack of consciousness is a complete defense
§         Hypnosis
§         Self-induced state
§         People v. Decina – case of person who knows he is prone to epileptic seizures, operates a car on a public highway, has a seizure and kills four people. Court holds him criminally liable.
·         Even though the immediate action causing the harm was involuntary, the defendant knew he was likely to have the seizure and disregarded the consequences.
o        Omissions- usually no liability for an omission to act
·         Example: D sees V (a stranger) drowning in front of him. D could easily rescue V. D will normally not be criminally liable for failing to attempt to rescue V, because there is no general liability for omissions as distinguished from affirmative acts.
·         Pope v. State
·         Facts: D charged with a crime after letting woman and kid stay in her home and failed to call police or stop a mother from committing child abuse that resulted in death of the child or getting med assistance
·         Rule: common law rule of the US does not impose a duty to take affirmative action upon bystanders in emergency situations if they are not responsible for the situation
o        Legal duty- special legal duty to act
§         Special relationship (ie] close blood relationship)
·         People v. Beardsley– Beardsley spent weekend at his home with woman who was not his wife; woman took deadly dose of morphine; Beardsley did not call doctor for help- she died and he was charged and convicted of manslaughter
·         Ct reversed b/c Beardsley owned deceased no legal duty (not his wife); she knew risk involved
§         Contract
§         Jones v United States-Green and baby lived w/ Jones; baby died from neglect and malnutrition
·         Br of legal duty: (i) where statute imposes duty of care; (ii) where on stands in certain relationship to another; (iii) where one has assumed a contractual duty to anther to care for another; or (iv) where one has voluntarily assumed the care of another and has w/drawn the helpless person from others who could render aid
§         D caused the danger (even innocently)-D usu then has duty to save V
§         Undertaking-if D undertakes to give assistant or dissuades other rescuers from helping in reliance that D is already doing so
§         Ex] where D leaves V worse off that he was befor

      b.            “maliciously” intentional conduct by D & often incl reckless conduct; degree of aforethought or plan
                                                                                                                                 ·            Regina v. Cunningham
                                                                                                                                                         ·            Facts:Cunningham intentionally stole a gas meter. Woman in the house got ill from the escaping gas.
                                                                                                                                                         ·            Rule of Law:“Malice” in a statutory crime means foresight of the consequences and requires either an actual intention (knowledge) to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done or recklessness as to whether such harm could occur or not. Transferred intent only operates within the scope of the intended crime.
c.      Conditional intent- D may intend to commit partic act only upon certain condition
                                                                                                                                i.            MPC–existence of such condition is irrelevant unless condition negatives the harm/evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense
D breaks into house, intending to steal