Select Page

Criminal Law
University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Harris, Angela P.

Criminal Law Outline Fall 2007

Role of Judge / Prosecution / Defense
I. Role of Appeals Ct
A. Standard of Review
1. Sufficiency of evidence: whether prosecution has introduced enough evidence such that a rational jury could decide that P had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt
2. if evidence is ambiguous, D gets benefit of the doubt
i. Case: Curley v. United States: D “the Group” convicted on for mail fraud/conspiracy to mail fraud. D Curley claimed that although he was president of the group, no actual evidence showed that he was involved/aware of its fraudulent activities and moved for directed verdicts of acquittal which were denied. Jury found them guilty.
ii. Appellant review to see if TC erred in denying motion for directed verdict of acquittal
iii. Stressed that if TC can draw inference that a reasonable jury may have reasonable doubt that D is not guilty based on existing evidence à then must grant motion. Therefore, erred to deny it.
II. Reasonable Doubt
III.Both sides: Prosecution / Defense
A. Present different theories/ lay all cards on table even if the theories are inconsistent w/ one another
B. Recognize and exploit ambiguities: both in facts and in the law
C. Always start w/ precise statutory language, build story using facts then reapply to statutory provisions
D. Burden of proof ( 2 types)
1. Burden of production (initially bore by P)
2. Burden of persuasion (both P and D)
IV.Presumption of innocence creates a structural bias in favor of D
A. Standard of Review: describes level of certainty fact-finder must reach in order to find D guilty
1. Criminal proceeding = “beyond a reasonable doubt”
2. Civil proceeding = “by a preponderance of evidence”
V. Prosecution
A. Bears the burden of presenting a prima facie case
B. Bears the burden of proof that D is guilty
A. 2 defense strategies
1. prima facie case defense / case-in-chief defense: create a reasonable doubt re elements in P’s case/story
i. case-in-chief: initial presentation of party’s evidence
ii. prima facie: at first view the evidence should be held legally sufficient to prove P’s story
2. affirmative defense: admit to facts as prosecution presented but argues acquittal based on extenuating circumstances:
i. D was justified in behaving so
ii. D should be excused because of some other conditions
3. In affirmative Defense D bears burden of persuasion but standard of review may / may not be beyond a reasonable doubt, but preponderance of evidence <check if this is majority view>
Role of Jury
I. Role of Jury
A. Made up 12 individuals
B. Most cts allow jury’s verdict be unanimous /some allow non-unanimous
II. Jury nullification: the act of returning a verdict contrary to law
A. A power that jury has but is not informed of
B. Case: People v. Williams: juror dismissed after declaring intention to use jury nullification and D was found guilty. D appealed that this violated his constitutional right to trial by jury = SC of CA affirmed decision and stated that this is a power, not a constitutional right
C. Policy for
1. Jury’s role is beyond fact-finders but there to represent public democracy /minority against govt /system
2. Jury represent community morales
3. Jury can perceive the spirit of law: adds flexibility /humanity
4. Provides check against executive branch /legislative branch: if law does not reflect community values, can deal with it
i. Butler’s article / Butler Plan: advocates jury nullification where D is AA (race-based jury nullification) for non-violent crimes (example drug offenses)
a. AA has no effective say in electoral politics, so forced to respond to the law created by majority
b. “democratic domination”: minority grps w/o political power have no respect for the law/have distrust for the system
(1) moral reason why jury nullification among AA is justified
D. Criticism
1. If misused, could lead to mistrial/ misinterpretation and disorder on legal system
2. Anti-democratic: 12 ppl should not be given power to alter law that were written by those elected by general public
3. Institutional interest: role of jury is fact-finder, should not be expanded
i. Andrew’s article:
a. Declaration of jury nullification would mean person not selected as juror during voir dire
b. jury do not get the full information needed to properly exercise jury-nullification and make correct morale distinctions
Sources of Criminal Law
I. All of criminal law = statutory language/codes
A. Two sources of statutory language result in different methods of interpretation
1. MPC
2. Common law
1. Drafted in 1960s by lawmakers/scholars as a way of codifying /updating criminal code
2. Itself is not law, but becomes law after states adopt its language into statutory codes
i. ex: New York, Alaska
C. Common Law
1. Traditional English Common law = no codes, all case law /judge-made law
2. NO actual ‘common law’ crim law in US since all codified
3. Language of statutes borrowed from concepts from traditional Eng. Common law
i. ex: CA

Theories of / Justifications for Punishment
II. Utilitarian
A. consequentialist theory: actions are morally right if they result in desire consequences
1. Looks at the utility of punishment and is forward-looking: looks at the effect of punishment on offender and society
B. Justifications
1. Deterrence: Threat of punishment deters wrongful conduct
i. General: punishment dissuade others from doing same
a. Case: People v. Suitte
(1) D found guilty of possession of a gun, which was registered in NC where he purchased it but not in NY where he resided. D was a law-abiding citizen, aware of NY licensing requirement, purchased gun because his shop is located in high crime area.

used by jdgs when there is ambiguity in statutes
A. Top priority in statute interpretation: plain language
B. Efficiency in the administration of justice: interpretation cannot contradict w/ constitution
C. Grammar/syntax issues in statutes
1. noscitur a sociis: meaning of doubtful terms or phrases may be determined by reference to their relationship with other associated words or phrases
2. ejusdem generis: where general terms follow a specific enumeration of persons or things, the general words should be limited to persons or things similar to those specifically enumerated
D. rule of lenity: states that all doubts when reading a criminal statute should be resolved in favor of D given the important liberty at stake and the presumption of innocence
1. Case: U.S. v. Dauray
i. D carrying looseleaf copies/magazine rip-outs of minors porn photos, ambiguity in what is meant by “other matter which contains any visual depiction”
ii. Case good illustration of the mechanisms of statutory interpretation: 1st stop: Plain meaning: statutory definition of terms –> Ct used that; if not –> dictionary/common definition à Review of placement of statutory scheme/context of language: entire statute and legislative history Precedents : none à Canons of Construction (usually last resort) ==> if all canons of construction does not work, go to “rule of lenity” (considered part of canons of construction): let D go.
Constitutional Limitations
I. 5th & 14th amendments:
A. Due Process: Doctrine of Void-for-Vagueness
1. Derived from due process clauses of 5th amendment (federal statute) and 14th amendment (state/local statute) = say the same thing and interpreted to mean the same thing
2. Doctrine states that vagueness is unconstitutional because violates one’s due process rights, thus can invalidate criminal statute if does not provide fair notice and may result in unfettered discretion
3. Test for Vagueness:
i. Fair Notice (Can ordinary people reasonably determine the law’s meaning/application?)
a. Case: Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville: City’s Vagrancy law was written so vaguely that innocent acts criminal = thus does not give fair notice to what conduct would be criminal and encouraged unfettered discretion in prosecution. Therefore, held void and unconstitutional