Criminal Law Outline
I. Purposes of Punishment
a. Utilitarian – punish people because there is an overall societal goal.
i. Isolating protection – protect society by incarceration, house arrest, capital punishment
1. General – to set an example of what happens when rules are not followed
2. Specific – to teach the individual a lesson so he will not do it again
iii. Rehabilitation – teach the person to become a positive part of society (requires resources)
b. Retributive Justifications “eye for an eye”
i. D deserves punishment for bad choice of conduct.
ii. Social vengeance avoids individual vigilante justice
II. Constitutional Limitations
a. Due Process – 5th and 14th amendments– no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of the law.
i. Burden of Proof – on govt in criminal cases
ii. Standard of Proof – beyond a reasonable doubt
1. Principle of Legality – “no crime w/o law, no punishment w/o law”
a. No retroactive expansion/application of criminal laws
b. Compare: ex post facto (legislative)
2. Void for Vagueness Doctrine
b. Minimum guidelines to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the laws
c. Inhibits exercise of 1st amendment rights
3. Rule of Strict Construction/Doctrine of Lenity – statutory interpretation in favor of D against the government. Factors to consider in statutory interpretation:
a. Legislative intent
b. Common law
c. Plain meaning/dictionary
e. Statutes in “pari material”
f. Legislative history
b. 6th Amendment – Right to Jury Trial/Right to Counsel
i. Jury nullification NOT within the 6th amendment, only a power belonging to the jury, NOT D’s constitutional right.
III. Elements of Crimes
a. Actus Reus
i. CL: Voluntary Act or Omission to Act where a legal duty exists
1. MPC: voluntary act or omission to perform an act of which the actor is physically capable.
2. Voluntary – not reflexive, compare: intentional, deliberate, purposeful, knowing.
a. Not necessarily intentional, could voluntarily fire a gun and unintentionally shoot a person. Requires a low level of brain activity.
3. Legal Duty to act:
a. Statute: property owner, business owner
b. Status: parent-child, spouse
c. Contract: employment
d. Voluntary Assumption
e. Creation of Risk
b. Mens Rea
i. MPC: 4 mental states of criminal culpability
a. Knowledge of high probability
b. Willful blindness = knowingly (same rule under CL)
3. Recklessly – subjective standard: “did know, conscious disregard”
4. Negligently – objective standard: “should have known”
ii. General vs. Specific Intent
1. General Intent – intent to commit the actus reus of the crime.
2. Specific Intent – any additional mental state required for the crime.
iii. Strict Liability Offences
1. Public Welfare Offense – Malum Prohibitum: e.g. traffic regulations, building codes.
a. Does the punishment of the wrongdoer far outweigh regulation of the social order as a purpose of law in question? If so, mens rea is prob required.
b. If the penalty is light, mens rea prob not required
2. CL Partial Strict Liability Crimes – Malum in Se
a. Mens rea is required for the act, but not for the attendant circumstances.
b. E.g. statutory rape: includes consensual intercourse, no mens rea required for attendant circumstances (girl’s age).
c. Concurrence of the Elements
i. Concurrence of mens rea and actus reus, and mens reas should put into action the act.
i. Actual (Cause in Fact)/But For
1. Acceleration – both acts are causes in fact of harm. Here, if the second act is not intended to be lethal, but it accelerates death, actor is charged with a lesser crime. If act is intended to be lethal, it is a higher charge.
2. Substantial Factor test – either act alone causes the harm. Each act is the cause in fact of the harm. Two lethal blows that cause death – both actual causes.
1. Intervening Causes – do NOT break the causal connection between the actor’s conduct and the resulting harm
a. Ordinary Negligence = intervening
b. Intended Consequences Doctrine – if you intend to kill someone and the result does in fact happen, if not exactly how you intended, the D is still guilty – not superceding.
2. Superceding Causes – DO break the causal connection between the actor’s conduct and the resulting harm.
a. Gross Negligence (criminal negligence) = Superceding
b. Apparent Safety Doctrine = superceding
i. When victim reaches a position of safety, the original wrongdoer no longer responsible for any ensuing harm.
ii. Events that can be either intervening or superceding. If foreseeable, then intervening:
1. Acts of God/Nature
2. The victim’s actions
3. Other people – third party actions
i. required for result crimes
IV. Death Penalty
1. In 2005, Ct. held that the 8th Amendment prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed at age 18 or younger.
1. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified by the US in 1992 but with a specific reservation r
3. Gas Chamber
4. Firing Squad
v. Death penalty for FMR Accomplice Liability – ok if substantial participation and recklessness Tison v. Arizona.
V. Inchoate Crimes
a. Attempt – specific intent crime
i. Maj: Intent to commit a target crime vs. Min: (FL) mens rea required by target crime
ii. AND an overt act beyond mere preparation towards its commission.
1. Note: for result crimes, must intend the result. (E.g. attempted murder: must have intent to kill). For conduct crimes: need not intend result.
iii. What constitutes an over act beyond mere preparation?
1. CA: Res ipsa loquitur (Unequivocality) – guilty of attempt if actor’s intention clear from acts and acts alone show that actor putting into action “silent movie” frame by frame. Rsbl person standard.
2. Abnormal Step: objective, reasonable person standard.
3. Dangerous Proximity – so near that danger of success is great
a. Nearness of danger
b. Greatness of harm
c. Degree of apprehension felt.
4. Probable Desistance – past point of no return, waiting for indispensable element.
5. Indispensable Element – need nec element of crime for attempt
6. CL: Last Act – all of the acts she believed necessary to commit crime
7. Last Proximate Act: would have occurred but for extrinsic force
8. MPC: Substantial Step – beyond mere preparation, strongly corroborates D’s criminal purpose – having materials, lying in wait.
iv. Merger: once target crime committed, attempt merges w/target crime
a. Factual Impossibility – NOT a defense
b. Legal Impossibility – Yes, a defense: D did all the things he needed to do but these acts did not constitute a crime.
i. Two types:
1. Pure: actor believes he’s committing a crime, but his conduct does not constitute any crime
2. Hybrid: actor’s goal is illegal but factual mistake about an attendant circumstance makes impossible.
a. When a factual mistake relates to the legal status of D’s conduct.
b. However, depending on how described, usually can also be called factual impossibility.