Criminal Law Outline – Evan Lee, Fall 2012
1 – Actus Reus
I. Goal of Criminal Law – punish only “blameworthy people”
A. This requires an actus reus as well as mens rea component to an offense (most offenses like this)
II. Actus Reus requires a voluntary act or omission of a voluntary act
A. Cannot punish for evil thoughts alone. Why? Because we value freedom of thoughts
III. What does “voluntary” mean?
A. Oliver Wendell Holmes – A “willed muscle contraction”
B. MPC – no def for voluntary but says what voluntary is not
i. reflex or convulsion
ii. movement during unconsciousness or sleep
iii. conduct during hypnosis or post-hypnotic suggestion
iv. residual clause (“conscious” or “habitual” acts ARE voluntary)
C. Narrow v. Broad meaning in crim law – sometimes “voluntary” and “involuntary” are used in other ways. For example, they are used when someone performs conduct under duress. In the narrow sense, this is still voluntary.
IV. Was People v. Decina the right result? (Where D knew he was prone to epileptic attacks but still drove his car, killing four girls. D was guilty.) DISCUSSION
2 – Omission liability
I. Failure of duty to act – A person can only be punished for failure only if he or she had a legal duty to act: Duty can be established by following:
A. Statute imposes duty
i.e. registering for the draft, income tax laws
B. Status relationship imposes duty
i.e. Parent-child duty
C. Contract creates duty
D. Duty was voluntarily assumed, then abandoned, thereby leaving victim worse off
E. Status as landowner imposes duty
F. Tort duty to control certain third persons (i.e. children)
i.e. Collumbine inicident
G. D created peril in the first place
i.e. if you created a dangerous situation in the first place
II. Jones v. United States
–Conviction for involuntary manslaughter on omission theory must be reversed on failure of jury instruction to find that D had a legal duty to act
–Jones has relationship with green, voluntarily assumes care of child
–Child is neglected and eventually dies of malnutrition
HYPO: Assume that Jones contracted with Green but Green did not keep up with payments and was in breach. Different result?
HYPO: Assume Green wasn’t living with Jones but could’ve checked in on the children. Different result?
III. Other Key cases
State v. Walden (NC) – D convicted of aiding and abetting the assault of her baby on theory of omission by not stopping a friend who assaulted baby.
People v. Henson (NY) – Parents convicted of negligent homicide on failure to get med. help for child
Commonwealth v. Twitchell (MASS) – involuntary manslaughter conviction even when it is based on religious principles (Christian science)
People v. Heitzman (CA) – D whose father was dying while living with D’s bros could not be convicted of “willfully causing or permitting elder to suffer” without proof that she had a legal duty to control
IV. No duty to “rescue” generally in the criminal law – Should there be?
A. Option – Impose a duty to rescue where one can do so without significant risk to oneself
B. Option – Law could impose duty to inform authorities when one is reasonably certain that another is in serious peril
C. Discussion – should the law reach people like David Cash who could see his friend seriously harming a young child in a bathroom stall but did not notify authorities?
–Laws enacted in NV and CA reacted to this but only confined to reporting crimes for sexual assaults of kids
–Misprision of felony – old common law and still federal law
Part 2 –Possession
I. Special Instance of the Voluntary Act Requirement
A. To be guilty of contraband (drugs, firearms, stolen property) one must be true:
i. The D deliberately obtained the contraband
ii. The D knowingly received the contraband
iii. The D has failed to terminate control of contraband after a significant amount of time (omission)
–this is possession on an omission theory – you have legal duty to relinquish control (turn it in)
II. Possession (def.) : having control or dominion (no control = no possession)
A. Two types
i. Actual Possession – physical possession – it’s on you
ii. Constructive Possession – remote control, it’s not on you but you do not control it’s “destiny”
B. Problem: When does D have control?
#1 – Wheeler v. United States (D.C.)
–Cops break into house where females are in a room with heroin, D was just in the room, evidence sufficient because she gave alias to police and there was an inference to be made that she was inhabitant of bed where heroin was
HOLDING: D had sufficient control over heroin
#2 – People v. Ireland (IL)
Man’s wife brings home a lot of marijuana, he is aware of it but does nothing to further it
HOLDING: Improper jury instruction on what “control” is – jury might have been misled thinking mere knowledge without control was sufficient. Also held that control does not mean exclusive control, control can be joint.
HYPO – suppose Ireland was aware that there were illegal drugs in the house he shared with his wife, that the drugs were in an area to which they had access, that he had told his wife he didn’t want them there and hope his wife would remove them. Is he guilty of possession? These are the tough questions the courts have to address because possession is tough to define.
LEE – Logical inference from these two cases is that control means “appreciable” but not necessarily exclusive control
Other important cases
–United States v. Borchardt – making case of constructive possession if they exercised or had opp. to control it – D flew 126k from dallas to mexico to purchase marijuana, 3rd plane crashed, he was held to be in possession since he helped load 3rd plane.
–United States v. Zandi – brothers had possession of heroin when they acquired shipping docs
–United States v. Lindsey – D convicted because he exercised dominion and control over a separate u-haul truck even though he wasn’t driving the truck (he had “dominion” over it)
III. Awareness of Possession
A. Crime requires proof that D is aware that he or she possessed prohibited item
Commonwealth v. Juliano – convicted reversed because there was insufficient evidence that D’s was aware there were drugs in a satchel in his car.
IV. Control need not be “immediate” one may have possession over things they have special access to
TAKEWAY FOR THIS LESSON: Test for whether D had control is fact-specific, there is no bright line test. You need to look at all of the facts of the case, high fact-specific w/ no clear answer
3 – Status Crimes
I. “Voluntary Act” requirement c
cked people and libs thinks prosecution has to provbe this person had precise mental culpability that statute requires.
E. Mens Rea doesn’t move
i. You can’t move mens rea for one crime to another crime (like in Faulkner)
a. One exception – Felony-Murder
ii. You can move mens rea for one crime of an object to another object – transferred intent. (i.e. A tries to kill B, misses an kills C, A’s mens rea for killing B can be transferred to C).
II. MPC Code 2.02
A. Majority Rule
i. Most states follow 2.02 and it is the most important systematization of thought for mental culpability (CA does not have 2.02)
B. Types of Culpability
i. Purpose – “conscious object”
ii. Knowledge – “awareness” or “practical certainty”
iii. Recklessness – “conscious disregard of substantial or unjustified risk”
iv. Negligence – should have recognized a substantial and unjustified risk
i. Does away with “intent,” no such concept of intent. Gets rid of words like “willful” which were to difficult to apply.
D. How do we know the difference between “recklessness” and “negligence”
i. Can’t read thoughts, how do we know? Circumstantial evid, we are inferring you’re doing this thing
ii. Sometimes people confess
E. Hierarchy of Culpability
i. Purpose, Knowledge, Recklessness, Negligence is a hierarchy
F. Elementary Analysis vs. Offense Analysis
F. When no term appears in an offense use “recklessness” if only one term appears, use that term for all elements of the offense.
A. State v. Peery – D on trial for public nudity after walking naked in his room. D argues he wasn’t aware. The law requires Purpose (purpose to be lewd). Here is it a case of negligence, unclear if he had the purpose, therefore D not guilty. (Part of his reasoning is his background character, he is “honorable” therefore he wouldn’t desire to be lewd)
B. United States v. Villegas – D on trial for knowing endargement provision for placing vials into rocks near the ocean. D not guilty of the crime because statute requires Knowledge and it is unclear he knew the vials would endanger someone. He was most likely reckless or negligent.
–Rationale: Insufficient evidence under either the “substantial certainty” or “high probability” standard.
Discussion: Do you agree or could one infer that Villegas has the knowledge? Also, should Congress require a lesser degree of mens rea for this offense?
i. MPC Section 2.02(7): “requirement of knowledge satisfied by knowledge of high probability” – comment addressed to “willful blindness”