Criminal Law Carlson Spring 2016
I.Introduction (Sources, Presumption, Purpose, Legality, Void for Vagueness Doctrine)
Crime is a compound idea, must partake in an activity that is seen criminal by the state with a mindset that is criminal. Need
Actus Reus: guilty (bad) act
Mens Rea: guilty mind
Different from civil wrongs in that:
Crime is public not private,
Often moral condemnation associated with the crime,
Seen as “the expression of the community’s hatred, fear, or contempt for the convict which alone characterizes physical hardship as punishment.
Burden of Proof and the Presumption of Innocence
Burden of proof in a criminal trial is beyond a reasonable doubt
“in order to provide concrete substance for the presumption of innocence the due process clause requires the prosecutor to persuade the factfinder beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged.
It is the prime instrument for reducing the risk of convictions resting on factual error.
Any attempt to quantify it may impermissible lower the prosecution’s burden of proof, and is likely to confuse rather than clarify
Owens v. State
Convicted of DWI, only evidence was officers testimony of a suspicious vehicle call.
Issue on appeal is insufficiency of evidence
Standard on review is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Presumption of innocence is applied by the fact finder, not the court of appeals.
Standard of review of verdict based on circumstantial evidence: not to be sustained unless the circumstance are inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence
Jury ignores the facts and the judge’s instructions on the law and acquits the defendant
Matter of pure power
State v. Ragland
Ragland previously convicted felon charged with armed robbery and other crimes.
Jury instructed that if found that the ∆ was in possession of a weapon during the commission of the robbery, you must find him guilty of the possession charged.
Appeals jury instruction, arguing the word “must” conflicted with jury’s nullification power
Held, the power of jury to acquit despite not only overwhelming proof of guilt, is not one of the precious attributes of the right to trial by jury.
Purpose of Punishment
1.02. Purposes; Principles of Construction.
(1) The general purposes of the provisions governing the definition of offenses are:
(a) to forbid and prevent conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably inflicts or threatens substantial harm to individual or public interests;
(b) to subject to public control persons whose conduct indicates that they are disposed to commit crimes;
(c) to safeguard conduct that is without fault from condemnation as criminal;
(d) to give fair warning of the nature of the conduct declared to constitute an offense;
(e) to differentiate on reasonable grounds between serious and minor offenses.
(2) The general purposes of the provisions governing the sentencing and treatment of offenders are:
(a) to prevent the commission of offenses;
(b) to promote the correction and rehabilitation of offenders;
(c) to safeguard offenders against excessive, disproportionate or arbitrary punishment;
(d) to give fair warning of the nature of the sentences that may be imposed on conviction of an offense;
(e) to differentiate among offenders with a view to a just individualization in their treatment;
(f) to define, coordinate and harmonize the powers, duties and functions of the courts and of administrative officers and agencies responsible for dealing with offenders;
(g) to advance the use of generally accepted scientific methods and knowledge in the sentencing and treatment of offenders;
(h) to integrate responsibility for the administration of the correctional system in a State Department of Correction [or other single department or agency].
Punishment: the intentional infliction of harm on a person culpable of a crime. When a punishment is inflicted on a person it is we, the people, who are inflicting that punishment.
Question of punishment can be divided into two questions
Why should we use punishment in general?
Why do we use it on one person and not another?
Two views on punishment
Justification lies in the useful purposes that punishment serves
Aka consequentialist, or instrumentalist
Forward looking in the sense that punishment is justified on the basis of the supposed benefits that will accrue from its imposition
Act utilitarian: a person's act is morally right if and only if it produces at least as much happiness as any other act that the person could perform at that time.
Rules utilitarian: rules show be on balance to prevent criminal behavior
Punish because of the good results
Why is punishment useful?
Make the bad consequences of crime greater than the good consequences of crime
We factor in severity of punishment X the likelihood of getting caught
Actual imposition of punishment creates fear in offender that if he repeats his act, he will be punished again
May help to reform the criminal so that his wish to commit crimes will be lessened, and perhaps so that he can be happier, more useful person.
ecause they are elected representatives and speak for the people. Judges usually are appointed —> Dissent view
Legality main values
Should be democratic
Give fair warning—> ex post facto clause
Avoiding arbitrary or discriminative law enforcement —> ex post facto clause
Keeler v. Superior court
Keeler kneed ex wife in stomach. Wife was pregnant. Prior to kneeing her he stated that he was going to “stomp the baby out of her”
Baby was still born with fractured skull
Comes up on a writ of prohibition: arrests proceedings of any tribunal when such proceedings are without or in excess of the jurisdiction of such tribunal. Petition to superior court
Statutory language: Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, with malice aforethought
Court goes to legislative intent
If the legislature is adopting a statute by adopting a common law rule they are presumed to mean the common law meaning
Its penal code of 1872 the enacted this statute by codifying the law of the 1850 legislature
Born alive rule: can't be guilty of a homicide at common law unless it had been born alive
Rule of Lenity
If a criminal statute is ambiguous you should interpret it in favor of the defendant
Avoid unforeseeable judicial expansion– interpretations that fail to give warning
Case is decided in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade
Had they decided that the fetus was a human, would have made any abortion in California a murder with malice aforethought
Legislative primacy issue
Wanted to leave the decision of whether a fetus was a human and therefore say whether or not abortions are illegal to the legislature
Fair warning argument
Interpreting a fetus may be a human being would be an Unforeseeable state court construction of a criminal statute
Void for Vagueness Doctrine
Construing statutes process
Look at plain meaning
Criminal statute must be strictly construed—> but must construe it with regard to the evil which it is intended to suppress
Common Law prior history can be used to interpret statute history
If there are two meanings, one constitutional and one unconstitutional, take the constitutional meaning