CRIMINAL LAW OUTLINE – WELLING – FALL 2015
1. Basic Criminal Law Doctrine
– Four goals of Penal Sanctions
Retribution: The heart of the retribution rationale is that a criminal sentence must be directly related to the personal culpability of the criminal offender.
Deterrence: theory that criminal laws are passed with well-defined punishments to discourage individual criminal defendants from becoming repeat offenders and to discourage others in society from engaging in similar criminal activity
Incapacitation: Person is a danger to society, so we need to keep them away from the rest of society.
Rehabilitation: The goal is to help make the person better to prevent further crimes.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE: MENS REA
Mens Rea: the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused
MPC Kinds of Culpability
A person acts purposely with respect to a material element of an offense when:
– the element involves the nature of his conduct or a result thereof, it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result
A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:
– the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.
A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such nature and degree that its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law -abiding person would observe in the actor’s situation.
A person acts negligently with respect to a material element of an offense when he should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor’s failure to perceive it involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation.
SOURCES OF LAW FOR OVERVIEW
Common Law – Court decisions and state statutes
Model Penal Code – Published in 1962- It is not a restatement, but it represents the best position on each issue according to the ALI. Many states have adopted parts of the MPC into their state codes.
Federal Criminal Law – Most criminal law is left to the states. Federal criminal law exists independently of state criminal law and is enforced only in the federal courts.
– Intoxication is not an affirmative defense. People v. Hood
– General intent is never negated by intoxication
– Specific intent: intoxication can be considered in defense
– Negligence requires no particular level of awareness, so it cannot be negated by the fact of intoxication. State v. Coates
– Intoxication may not negate any of the 4 Mens Reas, except when it is relevant to reduce murder from a higher degree to a lower degree. Commonwealth v. Rumsey, Pennsylvania
– Montana statute does not allow consideration for intoxication at all.
Intoxication is a defense if it negates the Mens Rea required for the crime. Intoxication can be used to negate the mens reas of purposely and knowingly, but it can NOT negate recklessly or negligently
D. IGNORANCE OR MISTAKE OF FACT
– Mistake of fact is a defense if it negates the Mens Rea required for the crime. Mistake of fact negates the Mens Rea when one exists for a crime.
– In United States v. Garrett, her mistake was so unreasonable that her mistake of fact
the conduct. If Defendant was unconscious, there was no conduct. Newton
– Defendant cannot be held liable for an omission to act, UNLESS he had a duty to act. Pestinakas
– Moral Duty – criminal law does not impose responsibility for failure to live up to moral duty unless it is embodied in a civil law duty.
– Failure to act – usually called an omission – may be a crime if the defendant had a legal duty to act.
a) voluntary act or omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable
b) list of things MPC does not consider voluntary:
(1) reflex or convulsion
(2) bodily movement during consciousness or sleep
(3) bodily movement during hypnosis
c) MPC permits omission or failure to act to satisfy the conduct element of a crime when:
(1) when the statute defining the offense expressly states that failure to act is a crime (failure to file taxes)
(2) the defendant has a duty to act imposed by civil law – (parent providing for child)
d) possession = conduct if possessor “knowingly” possessed or did not terminate possession after aware of his possession
H. MORE ON THE MENS REA
– To prove mens reas, we must infer the defendant’s thoughts based on their actions
1. Proving “Knowingly” through Willful Blindness [usually drug cases] – endorsed by MPC
a) 2 pronged instruction required to establish knowledge (if can’t establish actual knowledge
(1) aware of high probability, had suspicions aroused
(2) deliberately avoids finding out the truth, doesn’t check once suspicions are aroused
2. “Reason to Know” has been equated by court to “recklessness”
– this makes it a constitutional mens rea – constitution requires that certain crimes
3. Relationships between mens reas – once you prove inner one, you necessarily prove lesser ones (intentional