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Criminal Law
University of California, Hastings School of Law
Diamond, John L.

Professor: John L. Diamond
Spring 2012

In General – there must be a voluntary act or an omission to perform an act where there is a duty
Mere thoughts are not acts
Speech is an act
Sleepwalking may be excluded (Queens v. Park) but it is generally difficult to use
No duty to act unless: statute, special relationship, contractual duty, and voluntary assumption of care (so as to seclude the helpless person and prevent others from rendering aid), defendant’s status as a landowner, duty to control third parties (children or employees), or defendant’s creation of peril
Not a crime to not report a crime or not save someone’s life (if easy) unless there is a state laws

MPC – (142)
Acts exclude: Reflex, convulsion, bodily movement while unconscious or asleep, conduct during hypnosis, movement that is not product of the effort or determination of the actor
Liable for inaction if: omission is expressly made sufficient by the law defining the defense, or a duty to perform the omitted act is imposed by law

People v. Newton
D carried a gun on board an airplane that was not going to land in the US but did D was being unruly.  D was convicted of violating NY law of having no license to possess or carry the weapon.
There was no voluntary act because the flight was not scheduled to terminate in or pass through the US.  The airplane landing in NY was not due to D’s voluntary acts.
D must commit a voluntary act to be guilty.

Jones v. US
D charged with abusing and maltreating two children over which she claims she had no legal duty to care for (they were in her care).
Four situations where failure to act may constitute a breach: statute, relationship, contractual duty, and voluntary assumption of care so as to seclude the helpless person and prevent others from rendering aid.
Omission of duty owned which results in death makes one chargeable with manslaughter.

In General – “guilty” mind
Modern crimes require not only a voluntary act (actus reus) but also a certain state of mind (mens rea)

CL: General vs. Specific Intent
General intent – D must have a generally “wicked” state of mind (often shown by action)
Battery (need only prove that D intentionally or recklessly inflicted physical injury or touched the person in an offensive manner, no further mental state required
False imprisonment
Rape (but has become special intent)
Specific intent – Crimes that require evidence of extra-special mental element in addition
Larceny (intent to deprive permanently)
Burglary (intent to commit a crime)
Receipt of stolen goods (D was aware goods were stolen)
First Degree Murder
False pretenses
May also have an impact on sentencing
Generally, no transferred intent (if harm happens to another person)
Except in felony murder and misdemeanor manslaughter
Also, may transfer intent from one victim to another (shoots at A but hits B)
MPC: Does not distinguish between general and specific intent

State v. Peery
D charged with indecent exposure for standing naked in front of his window.
D claims it was not done intentionally, indecent exposure requires conduct be committed with deliberated intent of being indecent or lewd.
Character evidence can be used to show lack of specific intent.

MPC: 4 Levels of Culpability – A person is not guilty unless he acted:
1)      Purposely – Intent
a.       Generally, when D acts with conscious objective of causing a particular result
2)      Knowingly – Intent
a.       Traditionally: Knowledge of substantial or practical certainty
b.      MPC: High probability (easier to fulfill)
i.      “Ostrich” cases (deliberate ignorance) may be knowledge
3)      Recklessly
a.       Conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk
4)      Negligently
a.       D need not be aware of the risk, but should have been

US v. Villegas
D hid vials of blood in bulkhead, which ended up in ocean and beaches.
Although D knew dangers, insufficient evidence that D knew of high probability of outcome.
Intent requires a high probability that one knows one’s actions will cause danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Defenses Based on Mens Rea
Mistake of Fact – Defense
Not criminal if source is reliable and belief is reasonable
Specific intent crime – Can be honest but stupid/unreasonable mistake
General intent crime – Must be honest and reasonable mistake
MPC: mistake of fact is defense if it negates the culpability required to establish the offense
For crimes requiring purpose or knowledge, an honest mistake is a defense
For crimes requiring recklessness, mistake is defense so long as it wasn’t reckless
For crimes requiring negligence, mistake is defense so long as it wasn’t negligent
Basically, D can be excused if his actions were less culpable than the crime requires (purposeful crime but D acted recklessly is not guilty)

Gordon v. State
D, under 21, voted because his mother told him he was 21.
D made a mistake of fact based on reasonably reliable information.
Mistakes of fact lack the requisite intent to be criminal.

Mistake of Law – No defense
Ignorance of law or a reasonable mistake of law is not a defense
Basic Exceptions: (203)
1)      Law is not published
2)      Reasonable reliance on statute later determined to be invalid or overruled
3)      Reasonable reliance on a court decision (some require appellate court)
4)      Reasonable reliance on a public official who is in a position to int

interest of public safety, intent less necessary.
Since act does not require intent, D may be found guilty.

Vicarious Liability – Does not require mens rea or that a defendant personally commit a voluntary criminal act
Allows for fines but not prison

Commonwealth v. Koczwara
D’s tavern is accused of selling alcohol to minors. Can D be held responsible?
D has duty to control his employees, knowledge and criminal intent is not necessary.
Vicarious criminal responsibility allows D to be fined but not imprisoned.

Corporate Liability
CL – Impose criminal liability on corporation whenever an employee commits a prohibited act “within the scope of his or her authority”
Traditional: Need not have been authorized by higher manager
Modern: Must have been authorized by higher manager

MPC – Non-omission offense must have been “authorized, requested, commanded, performed, or recklessly tolerated by the board of directors or by a high managerial agent acting in behalf of the corporation within the scope of his office or employment”

State v. Adjustment Department Credit Bureau
S, an agent for D, tried to extort victim. Can D be held guilty for employee’s acts?
Company may be guilty if acts were authorized, requested, or commanded by another corporate agent having responsibility for corporate policy or a managerial agent having supervisory responsibility.

THEFT (480)
MPC – Theft is larceny, embezzlement, or false pretenses
Jurors must find all the elements of one, but do not need to agree on which crime
1)      Trespassory (wrongful)
2)      Taking
3)      And carrying away (asportation)
4)      Of the goods and chattels (personal property)
5)      Of another
6)      With the intent to deprive permanently the property of another

MPC – Unlawfully taking or exercising unlawful control over another person’s movable property

Grand vs. Petty – Amount varies by state (CA – $400)

Asportation – Some movement of the property, no matter how small
Every single part of object must move (spinning a donut rather than a pie)
May be possible to have asportation without taking (taking bottle of alcohol intending to steal it, walking away, and returning it)
Usually need some type of concealment or do something inconsistent with rights of the owner