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University of California, Hastings School of Law
Dodge, William S.

Criminal Law – Outline
1.     The Act
a.   Types of Acts:
                                      i.      Affirmative act;
                                    ii.      Omission (must have legal duty to act)
                                  iii.      Possession.
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