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Criminal Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Backus, Mary Sue

I)      Unit 1 – Introduction
A)    Crime – Anything a statute prohibits
1)      Crim Law is almost entirely statutory
2)      Crim Law defines the realm of the public impermissible
B)    Federal – State – Municipal – (Common Law)
C)    Discretion is invested in the parties who are involved in crim. Proceedings
D)    If a statute is silent on an issue, use the common law rule.
II) Unit 2 – Punishment
A)    2 Views
1)      Punisher – looks to the purpose of the punishment
2)      Punishee – looks to the impact of the punishment
B)    5 Rationales of Punishment
1)      Deterrence                 (Future oriented/ utilitarian)
(a)     General and Specific
(b)     Challenges
(i)       How much does it take to deter
(ii)     How effective is it really
(iii)    Does general deterrence use people inappropriately?
–         Not fair to the person
–         Punishes individuals more than they deserve
2)      Rehabilitation            (Future oriented/ utilitarian)
(a)     Attempts to reform criminal
(b)     Challenges
(i)       Difficult to rehab/ questions effectiveness
(ii)     More effective for problems line addiction
3)      Incapacitation            (Future oriented/ Utilitarian)
(a)     Confinement to prevent them from future criminal acts
(b)     Challenges
(i)       Not everyone is repetitively dangerous
(ii)     What level of incapacitation is needed?
4)      Retribution                
(a)     Blameworthiness, what the person deserves
(b)     Challenges
(i)       How to assess blame?
(ii)     Do you focus on the crime or criminal?
5)      Denunciation
(a)     Shaming a person in the community
(b)     Challenges
(i)       Difficult to measure
C)    Sentencing
1)      Sentencing guidelines must be consistent with a states punishment rationale.
2)      Indeterminate Sentences (Used before passage of mandatory limits)
(a)     Legislature provides wide ranges for punishments
(b)     Allows Judges to use discretion and for the executive branch to play a role through the parole board.
(c)     Rarely used now – Judges discretion came under attack and rehabilitation as a goal fell out of favor
3)      Determinative Sentences
(a)     Sentencing Guidelines – Fed. Sent. Guide 1980’s
(b)     Defined by seriousness of crime and individuals criminal history.
(c)     Mandatory minimums
(d)     Offense level and history used as plea bargaining chips.
(e)     Constrains Judges discretion
4)      US v Booker
(a)     Mandatory nature of sentencing guidelines was found to be a violation of the 6th Am. right to trial by jury because the judge became the fact finder on many issues.
(b)     Sentencing Guidelines are only advisory as a result of this case.
5)      Sentencing guidelines and Mandatory Minimums are fueling the increase in prison pops.
D)    Amount of Punishment
1)      Sentences should be proportional
(a)     Determine what the punishment should be proportional to depending on what rationales / purpose of punishment have been adopted.
(b)     Proportionality could be measured against:
(i)       Seriousness of the crime
(ii)     Individual circumstances of the criminal
(iii)    Other criminal sentences
(iv)   Harm or Damage created by the crime
(c)     8th Amendment contains a narrow proportionality principle guided by:
(i)       Primacy of legislatures
(ii)     Variety of legitimate penalogical schemes
(iii)    Nature of State or Federal system
(iv)   Review guided by objective factors
(d)     Only extreme or grossly disproportionate sentences are forbidden.
(e)     Ewing v. California (3 strikes laws)
(i)       California’s goal is incapacitation and is is not unreasonable to incapacitate a repeat offender.
(ii)     Some Justices think 8th Am. only bans certain modes of punishment and not disproportion

(e)     Chief Execs. Have the power of clemency and pardon.
3)      Juries – Jury nullification
4)      Judiciary – make criminal law through statutory interpretation.
D)    Theories of Interpretation:
1)      Intentionalism
(a)     Apply what was meant/ intended by the statute and what was said.
(b)     Intention of Congress trumps the plain language.
(c)     Finding Legislative Intent:
(i)       Legislative history
(ii)     Context of when the legislation was passed
(iii)    Title of the Act
(iv)   Evil it intended to remedy.
(d)     Interpret to avoid absurd results
(e)     Criticism: Can’t discern what the legislature intended because everyone votes for different reasons, undemocratic because it allows judges to make the law.
2)      Textualism
(a)     Use only the objective indicia of the words themselves
(b)     Not strict construction, reasonable construction
(c)     Criticisms:
(i)       It ignores legislative intent
(ii)     Many words have multiple meanings.
(iii)    When objective meaning is unclear and legislative intent is ignored, judges still end up making the law.
3)      Breyer’s View
(a)     6 tools to interpret statutes
(i)       Text
(ii)     History
(iii)    Tradition
(iv)   Precedent
(v)     Purpose
(vi)   Consequences
(b)     Avoid abuse of legislative history but don’t abandon it.
(c)     Some legislative history is vague, but some is helpful.
4)      Dynamic Statutory Interpretation
(a)     Reconcile 3 Different Perspectives
(i)       Statutory text