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Criminal Law
University of Kentucky School of Law
Welling, Sarah N.

Criminal Law

Fall 2013


Culpability –

Purposefully – conscious objective, attendant circumstances D is aware of

Knowingly – involves conduct he is aware that is certain will cause a result.

Recklessly – D disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk. The risk must be to the degree that it deviates from standard conduct.

Negligently – D should be aware of the risk.

Purposes of Criminal Law:

Prevention or Control


Incapacitation or Restraint.



Just desserts, payback, retaliation, punishment, etc.

Central Organizing Theories

1. Conduct – what the criminal actually did.

2. Culpability – vicious will, criminal intent.

Mens Rea – the Mental Element of a Crime.

Main Bodies of Criminal Law

Federal Criminal Law

Common Law

MPC – drafted by American Law Institute in 1962. Many states have adopted parts of it.

Intro to basic doctrines:

US v. Homes

D was crewmember on a ship that was shipwrecked. The crew threw passengers overboard the lifeboat to save themselves.

Self Defense?

A reasonable belief that there was eminent danger is sufficient.

D is convicted because the crewmembers should have cast lots

Implications: every life should be treated equally

Regina v. Faulkner

D was stealing rum from a ship when he caught it on fire.

Issue: should the D be charged with committing a crime he didn’t mean to commit, but that he did while he was committing another crime for which he meant to do?

The crime was not a logical or probable result of the D’s actions. (D is not culpable because the crime was not a foreseeable consequence of his actions.)

US v. Yermain

D failed to disclose prior criminal charges in employment form that he didn’t know would be sent to Department of Defense.

Does the D have to know that a lie falls within the jurisdiction of a US agency?

The D had to know he was lying but not to the gov’t.

The mens rea applies to the conduct of lying but not to knowing to whom.

False statements must be made knowing and willfully.



Common law – it gradually became a defense in occasional circumstances.

Generally, it is a defense for specific intent crimes, but not general intent crimes

MPC – it is not a defense unless it negates an element of the offense.

If the crime requires intent or knowing, intoxication is a defense

If the crime requires only recklessness or negligence it is not a defense

Intoxication can never negate recklessness or negligence.


People v. Hood

Court abandoned specific v. general intent distinction

The court takes into effect the general effects of alcohol.


Mistake of Fact Law

Common law – similar to intoxication in that it negates the intent for specific intent crimes.

MPC – it is a defense if it negates the purpose, knowledge, belief, recklessness, or negligence, required to establish the offense. (if it negates the mens rea)

Intent – yes. Knowingly – Yes. Recklessness – Probably not. Negligence – no.


Garnett v. State

Statutory Rape

Strict liability crime – no mens rea is required.

Conduct – vaginal intercourse with a V younger than 14. D must be 4 years older than V.

Mistake of fact can’t be a defense for statutory rape, because it is a strict liability crime.

Garrett v. U.S.

D boarded a plane with a gun in her purse and claimed she forgot it was there.

D was negligent in lacking knowledge of the gun.

Lack of knowledge doesn’t negate negligence.

Bryan v. U.S.

D was arrested for dealing firearms without a license.

The D does not have to know the specific statute that he has violated. Rather he must have a general sense of that his actions are illegal to be culpable.

Lambert v. CA

D didn’t register in CA as a convicted felon – passive crime

Can she be prosecuted even if she did not know that she had to register?

There must be notice of the illegality before someone can be convicted of a crime.


Strict Liability Crimes and Regulatory Offenses

Common Law: If it has a common law history – it is not a strict liability crime.

Regulatory Offenses (newer) can be SL

Public Welfare offsense

No moral stigma

MPC – Lesser crimes possible


Morisette v. US

D entered gov’t owned land to salvage bomb castings.

Is theft a strict liability crime?

No. Theft requires a mens rea


Conduct Requirement

MPC – Act must be voluntary 2.01

Crimes must have conduct element, there are a few exceptions:

Statute creates a duty (duty to report, etc.)

Relationship to the party (parent child, etc)

The existence of a contract

Voluntary assumption (if you undertake an act, you must continue)

Generally, you can’t be charged with crimes of omission unless there is a legal duty.

Federal (US v. Jewell) –

People v. Newton

D claimed he shot police officer in a state of unconsciousness.

Can the defenses of diminished capacity and unconscious

th Amendment’s provisions requiring probable cause or rightful suspicion?

Yes, the statute is overly vague.

City of Milwaukee v. Nelson

Is the MPC statute on vagrancy unconstitutional?

No, it is not vague nor overreaching.


Constitutional Limits on a State’s Ability to Criminalize

Ex pos facto clause – conduct can’t be criminalized that was legal when the person did it.

Bowers v. Hardwick

States can criminalize conduct because the conduct is immoral.

Criminalizing conduct that is widespread demeans the criminal law.


Lawrence v. Texas.

States can’t criminalize private, consensual, sexual conduct between adults.

The TX statute criminalizing sodomy violates the constitution because it infringes on the rights to privacy.


Sentencing Discretion

Governed by statutes and constitutional limits

Statutes – sentences must be reasonable and related to the crime


People v. Pointer

Issue: was the sentence reasonable in that it dictated that the P not to get pregnant?

No. It violated the woman’s constitutional right to privacy (get pregnant).

US v. Ely

D is sentenced to 40 years for drug charges. His distributor was sentenced lighter.

Trial judges have a lot of discretion with very little limits.

State v. Oxborrow

Set of statutes give judges a presumptive range for each crime. This lessens the discretion of trial judges.

Purpose of Sentencing

MPC – retribution is not a goal of sentencing.

State sentencing guidelines – retribution is recognized as a legitimate purpose again.


Death Penalty

Legal Arguments Against it

Exclusion of jurors who are against it leads to unrepresentative jury pools

Discriminatory Enforcement

Lack of Standards

Cruel and Unusual Punishment – 8th Amendment


Gregg v. Georgia

The death penalty in general is constitutional and is as applied to this case.