Criminal Law – Outline
1. The Act
a. Types of Acts:
i. Affirmative act;
ii. Omission (must have legal duty to act)
b. Actus Reas: the physical component of the crime must be product of free and conscious choice, determined through the totality of the circumstances, usually a bodily movement. A physical act (or unlawful omission) by the ∆
i. The Voluntary Act: must be a product of free and conscious choice: criminal law only punishes voluntary action
1. Voluntary issue: ex. Kilbride v. Lake: the “warrant of fitness” came off the car when ∆ parked; ∆ did not see it come off and did not choose to disregard it. There must be a choice
a. Exceptions: If driving in NYC with toxic waste: no mens rea required, actus rea alone is enough for a conviction.
2. Consciousness issue: unconsciousness is a defense
a. A condition one is not aware of the consequence of. ex: State v. Hinkle: driver not aware of brain disorder that regulates consciousness when he crashed his car.
c. Omissions as an Act: there must be a legal duty to act in order to establish an omission; the failure to meet the legal duty to act has to be voluntary.
1. ex.) Commonwealth v. Pestinakis: Couple takes custody of old man and agrees to provide care, moves him to rural porch, fails to sufficiently feed/provide medical care agreed to (legal duty); convicted of 3rd degree murder.
ii. Ways to find a legal duty:
1. Relationship between parties? (parent, husband, attorney, etc);
2. Was there a contract?
a. ex) Pestinakis case: ∆s agreed to take care of old man: contract, died of starvation
3. Statutory? Does a statute require a duty to act?
a. ex) required by statute to report an accident
4. Peril created? Did the ∆ directly create the danger?
5. Undertaking an action? Has someone begun an action to help? Once aid is rendered there must be a reasonable standard of care.
a. ex) can’t start to rescue someone then decide you don’t want to;
b. Exception: if you are unaware there is a duty
d. Possession as an Act: ∆ must knowingly exercise dominion and control (cannot just have custody)
i. Knowledge: can be constructive. Must be aware of the possession of the object but need not know of the objects illegality.
1. ex. People v. Valot (Hippy case): ∆ claimed he did not know drugs were present but was in “dominion and control” of a hotel room registered to him with drugs present.
ii. Presence: ∆ is in the company of the a substance, ∆ present in a roo
t drugs were present
ii. Knowingly Plus: Knowingly with the intent to cause harm.
1. ex) People v. Hood: ∆ shoots police officer in leg while intoxicated
c. Reckless: conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk
i. Conduct: a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person (RPP) in ∆’s circumstances would observe; conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk (viewed objectively)
1. Conduct is viewed objectively
2. Must look for a duty:
a. ex) ∆ had duty to stay awake when driving a van filled with children and falls asleep when the car is overloaded with children. Commonwealth v. Huggins.
ii. Awareness Requirement: a conscious disregard of a substantial and justified risk (wholly subjective)
1. ex) Welansky case: owner of bar locked/blocked emergency exits, found reckless after fire: knowingly disregarded risk of serious injury/death when ordered employees to block/lock doors.
2. Awareness is viewed subjectively