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Criminal Law
University of California, Hastings School of Law
Lee, Evan Tsen

 

CRIMINAL LAW
LEE
2014


STRUCTURING CRIMINAL LAW
I.      Basic Elements: (1) an act that causes or is likely to cause harm to the interests of others; (2) an accompanying state of mind that displays culpable disregard for those interests
a.    Acts – actus reus
i.    Conduct: taking
ii.    Circumstance: something about the situation that makes taking wrongful
iii.    Harmful “result”: homicide, rape
b.    State of Mind – mens rea
i.    Whether one acted with the purpose or awareness of harming others
ii.    4 levels (MPC) à Purpose; knowledge; recklessness; negligence
1.    Modify actus reus elements
c.     Indictable offense (= actus + mens)
i.    Ex of indictable offenses
1.    Inherent harm: murder, rape, robbery, arson
2.    Risk-creation (complete attempt): DUI, reckless endangerment, speeding, violation of safety codes
a.     Creates such an unacceptable risk of harm, punish very doing of harm
3.    Disgust: incest, indecent exposure, consensual sodomy (obsolete)
4.    Inchoate (incomplete attempts): conspiracy, solicitation à also liability extenders
ii.    Liability extenders: holds people liable for things b/c they took steps towards extending
1.    Ex: complicity (A’s crimes become B’s crimes); conspiracy and attempt (steps toward a crime become their own crime); felony-murder; natural and probable consequences
iii.    Liability limiters: limit indictable offenses
1.    Insanity; self-defense; duress; necessity; defense of others; entrapment; agency limit on F-M (must be felon or agent of felon); innocent victim on F-M; inherently dangerous felony limit on F-M
II.    Basic Model of Liability
a.     Basic Model: (1) an actor: (2) an act; (3) a victim
b.    Causation: can be liability limiter; e.g. did ∆ cause the harm to the victim?
c.     Attempt
d.    Accomplice liability
e.    Conspiracy

JUSTIFYING AIMS OF PUNISHMENT
I.      Why we punish
a.     Different people (judges, police, prosecutors, etc.) have discretion to determine punishment – based on reasons for punishment
II.    Desert
a.     Kant: because they deserve it, and no other reason
i.    Punish exactly as much as they deserve to be punished: hold them completely responsible for their own acts (or else infantilizing them)
ii.    We all know it’s wrong – whether it does any good in the real world, punishing is right thing to do b/c he/she deserve it
b.    Hybrid: most of legal culture subscribes to this theory – can never punish more but can for less
i.    Limit on how much you can punish someone because no one should be a tool for positive utilitarian purposes
1.    E.g.: If someone deserves to be punished 5-10 years (based on amount of harm caused, intent, etc.) but subscribe the death penalty to greatly deter the public from violating the same crime = not okay
ii.    Should not punish more than they deserve but okay to punish less if there are good reasons
1.    E.g.: too expensive to incarcerate
III.   Utilitarian
a.     General deterrence
i.    Deter general public into obeying the law by punishing wrongdoers
b.    Specific deterrence
i.    Deter wrongdoer into obeying law through punishment
c.     Incapacitation
i.    Disable wrongdoers from doing future harm by segregating them from society (jail)
IV.   Disgust
a.     Some behavior cannot be tolerated in a civilized society, even if it does not directly harm or endanger anyone else
V.    Mixed Reasons
a.     Rehabilitation
i.    Punish wrongdoers for purpose of making them better
ii.    Could argue that expense of rehabilitating criminals is not worth it when so much of society needs those resources – creates perverse incentives
b.    Denunciation
i.    Punish wrongdoers to establish what kinds of acts are wrong
ii.    Distance ourselves from this kind of behavior – e.g. domestic abuse, date rape, etc.

THE ACT REQUIREMENT
I.      Requires: relevant voluntary act or omission to act where there is a legal duty to act (thoughts not enough)
a.     Really about blameworthiness
b.    Common law crimes all require an act or omission in addition to a bad state of mind
i.    Ex. Common law murder
1.    Killing another human being (actus) with malice aforethought (mens)
ii.    Ex. Common law larceny
1.    Taking and carrying away of personal property of another (actus) with the intent to deprive the person of ownership (mens)
c.     Criminal system does not punish just thoughts
i.    Thoughts are not susceptible to proof except when demonstrated by outward actions
ii.    Difficulty in distinguishing a fixed intent from mere daydream
iii.    Criminal law should not be broadly defined to reach those who entertain criminal schemes but never actually act
II.    Voluntary Requirement:
a.     Oliver Wendell Holmes: willed muscle contraction (e.g. speaking = act)
b.    MPC: voluntary act is NOT: (a) reflex or convulsion; (b) movement during unconsciousness or sleep; (c) conduct during hypnosis or post-hypnotic suggestion; (d) residual clause
c.     People v. Newton: ∆ did not commit voluntary act within jurisdiction and had no reasonable expectation of being in the jurisdiction
d.    People v. Decina: ∆ knew he was prone to epileptic attacks that would occur without warning. ∆ killed girls after an attack and court held him liable – getting in car related enough
III.   Omissions:
a.     Failure to act where there is a legal duty can be the actus reus – not an indictable offense – can lead to one but you cannot be guilty for omission
b.    Jones v. U.S.: Π allege ∆ failed legal duty to provide food and necessities, and should be guilty of involuntary manslaughter in failing to provide them
i.    Instruct jury that there is a legal duty
c.     Examples of criminally liable breaches of a legal duty: (1) statute; (2) special relationship; (3) contractual obligation; (4) voluntary assumption of care; (5) status as landowner; (6) tort duty to control certain 3rd persons; (7) ∆ created peril in first place
d.    Affirmative steps = misprision of felony

ACT OF POSSESSION
I.      Possession under the act requirement
a.     No physical act involved – considered constructive possession
b.    To be guilty of possession of contraband: (1) ∆ deliberately obtained contraband; (2) ∆ knowingly received contraband; OR (3) ∆ failed to terminate control over contraband after having a sufficient amount of time
i.    (3) = An omission to act where there is a legal duty to act
II.    Possession as Control
a.     Constructive possession: remote control
i.    Ask: is it enough control under these circumstances?
b.    Wheeler v. US: ∆ found in room with heroin with several other people. ∆ admitted she lived in the room and was found guilty
i.    Incriminating facts: (1) toilet just flushed as police entered the room; (2) suspects gave police aliases; (3) police

mind has to overlap in time with the doing of something socially undesirable
i.    Ex: you think about killing your neighbor and years later accidentally ran him over
c.     Brief history of mens rea
i.    Moral desert vs. social control: society concerned with risk of harm but want to limit the punishment to blameworthiness
1.    Queen v. Faulkner: intent to steal cannot be transformed into intent to start arson
II.    Common Law States: minority rule
a.     Includes California and federal law
b.    Specific intent offense vs. general intent offense
i.    General: all prosecution has to prove is that you intended to engage in the act you engaged in à often mistake of fact or intoxication
1.    Depraved murder, forcible rape, assault and battery, strict liability offense
ii.    Specific: when the definition refers to ∆’s intent to do some further act or achieve some additional consequences
1.    Attempts to murder, conspiracies, receiving stolen goods, bribery, burglary, theft
iii.    State v. Perry: ∆ was arrested for indecent exposure b/c he was naked in front of windows
1.    To establish IE: evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding that the misconduct complained of was committed with deliberate intent of being lewd
2.    General intent: whether ∆ acted purposely or knowingly
3.    Specific intent: whether ∆ had intent to be lewd
c.     Offensive analysis
III.   MPC §2.02: majority rule
a.    Levels/Hierarchy of Mental Culpability
i.    Purpose – “conscious object”
1.    Goal-oriented behavior – desire to have harm occur
2.    Ex: set warehouse on fire to kill a person
ii.    Knowledge – “awareness” or “practical certainty”
1.    Callousness to whether harm occurs, not necessarily goal-oriented (bad thing isn’t necessarily your conscious object)
2.    Awareness of extremely high likelihood that harm will occur – almost certain bad thing will happen
a.     Ex: set warehouse on fire for insurance money even though you know there is someone sleeping in the warehouse
3.    US v. Villegas: ∆ owned a lab and threw away vials of blood into a bulkhead. ∆’s vials included hepatitis B.
a.     Π had to prove ∆ knowingly discharged vials and knew at that time that he places another person in imminent danger or serious bodily injury
b.    How sure do you have to be to know something:
i.    Substantial or practical certainty; or
ii.    High probability (CT chooses this)
c.     CT says doesn’t matter which to use b/c π failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt by either standard
d.    Knowledge of endangerment is NOT satisfied by a showing that ∆ knew he was doing something wrong or the he knew he was violating his own policies
4.    Deliberate ignorance or willful connivance = knowledge