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Criminal Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Coyne, Randall T.

Crim Law
Spring 2011
Actus Reus: act or omission that we do not want to occur
Mens Rea: ‘state of mind’/ culpable mental state
Ø  Difficult to ascertain & overcome (joking, misheard, etc.)
è 4 Levels of culpability
o   W/ Purpose: most culpable mental state
§  Goal (Conscious objective)
§  What you wanted to do
§  “Positive desire to cause the result”
§  Regina v. Prince – Maliciously ~= purpose
o   Knowledge: aware of violating law
§   Understanding of highly probable risk
§   Practically certain
§   Aware of violation
§   “Scienter” – Guilty knowledge
§   Nearly certain conduct will cause the result
§   “Highly probable risk”
o   Shoot gun just to hear it
§   Can be constructive
o   Willful blindness is the same as knowledge
o   Jewell – Marijuana in secret compartment
o   Recklessness: aware of substantial/unjustifiable risk
§  Aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing the result and disregard that risk
§  Aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that your conduct will cause the harm; and consciously disregard that risk
o   Criminal Negligence: not knowing something a reasonable person should
§  Duty greater than torts in general
§  Existence of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing the result, but not aware
o   Mens Rea
§  Actus non dacit neum nisi mens rea
·         The act does not make you guilty unless the mind makes you guilty
§  Duty to know what the crime is, not knowing is not a defense UNLESS
·         Knowing is an element of the crime
§  Volume 21 of Oklahoma Statutes
·         Different than Model Penal Code
§  Model Penal Code – Requires mental state for each MATERIAL element of the crime; mental states for each element may be different
·         Cannot transfer mental state from one crime to another
Malum Inse: inherently bad acts (moral basis)
Malum Prohibidum: legislated bad acts
Criminal Formula (Elements of a Criminal Offense)
è Actus Reus + Mens Rea + Circumstances + Causation + Harm – Affirmative Defenses = what Δ can be convicted of
o   Not all elements have to be proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’
o   Circumstances: usually elements that have to be established in order for the prosecution to continue
§  Ex: (Breaking & Entering) Circumstances= dwelling, @ night, by trespass
Theories of Criminal Law
è Retribution: proper to punish people who offend the rules of society/harm society
o   Vengeance v. Retribution: retribution is proportioned correctly
o   Two Theories Here:
§  Revenge: blood lust for the offense.
§  Espiation: atonement through suffering (proportionality)
è Deterrence: send a message to the offender & society that this is an offense that will not be tolerated [Primary Goal of Criminal Justice] o   Specific: deters that criminal from the offense
o   General: deters the public in general
è Rehabilitation: changing the personality of the offender so they will not reoffend
o   Problems: expensive
è Incapacitation: while the offender is incarcerated, he can no longer commit crimes
è Proportionality: offense will be proportionate to the punishment (from 8th Amend.)
o   Tried + Convicted + sanctioned w/punishment
o   Doesn’t apply until someone has been punished
è Denunciation: message that society disapproves of offenders conduct
Reasons for Punishing Criminal Offenses
è They cause direct harm
è Elevates the risk of harm
Levels of Criminal Offense
è Felony: punishable for 1 yr +
è Misdemeanor: punishable up to 1 yr
Proctor v. State
è Held that voluntary statements are just an unexecuted intent for the future, and not acts/omissions
o   No Actus Reus, just comments
è The only thing the prosecution proved was that Proctor kept a place, not that he violated the stat.
Ewing v. Califorinia
è Golf-club snatcher who is 3rd-time offender
o   Sentenced to 25 yrs-life under the Cali. 3 Strikes Act
è Rehab and deterrence are not working since he is repeatedly offending
è Δ would have to show punishment was grossly disproportionate to satisfy 8th Amendment violations of ‘cruel & unusual’
o   Proportionality is a limiting principle
Affirmative Defenses
è Have to be disproved by prosecutor
Requirement of an Act (p. 107)
è (1) past (2) voluntary (3) wrongful/potentially harmful (4) conduct (5) specified (6) in advance (7) by statute.
o   No Common Law in Criminal Offenses Anymore
o   Last 3 implicate DP
o   Voluntariness
§  Voluntary – Brain commands muscles to do something, willed muscular contraction
§  Voluntarily encountering or bringing about the situation can satisfy voluntariness (knowing you are epileptic and driving anyway)
§  Involuntary – Non-willful muscular contraction
·         Seizure
·         Sleepwalking
o   Specified
§  Principle of Legality – To be punished, crime must be specified in advance (Chicago v. Morales  – Vague)
§  “Nullum crimen sine lege; nulla poena sine lege”
§  No crime without law, no punishment without law
§  Notice issue: Duty to become aware of the law
§  Ignorance is no excuse, we have constructive knowledge
o   Act/Omission
·         Omissions require duty to act (Jones case) and a breach of that duty
·         Passive omissions for offenses that are not malum in se require notice of the duty. (Narrow exception)
·         Ways to find a duty
o   Statute imposing duty of care
o   Status relationship
o   Contractual duty
o   Voluntary assumed c

s then take him to a hwy and charge him w/ being drunk on a public hwy.
è Not a voluntary action.
è Intoxication: (Gen. Rule) never a defense unless it proves an altered mental state
o   Usually adds an element to the crime
People v. Grant
è Δ suffered from psychomotor epilepsy which prevents his conscious mind from controlling his actions (automatism). Δ strikes officer when having an episode.
o   Automatism: the state of a person who, though capable of action, is not conscious of what he is doing. (Not Aware)
è Held: Δ entitled to JI’s based upon this form of automatism.
è Battery: the unlawful application of force to the person of another resulting in a harmful or offensive touching
o   State of Mind: criminal negligence. All that needs to be proved is there was a duty owed and a duty breached.
o   Aggravated: usually only when the victim is a police officer/woman/child
è Assault: an attempted battery or a purposeful creation other than by mere words of a reasonable apprehension (fear) in the mind of the victim of imminent bodily injury.
è Doctrine of Waiver: Δ can’t appeal a trial court ruling if he did not object at trial—the issue is forever waived
o   Contemporaneous Objection Rule
o   Exception: plain error. Some issues are appealable on plain error, even if Δ’s lawyer didn’t object.
§  Defendant has a duty to object as early as possible to anything wrong
§  Cannot raise new issues on appeal in general, unless they are BIG
§  Need a “contemporaneous objection” or you “waive” the issue
§  So fundamental, judge had a duty despite the lack of objection
Robinson v. California
è Δ is convicted of a Cali. Statute that criminalizes addiction to narcotics.
è Held: addiction is an illness, thus involuntary and statutes can’t incriminate addicts because…
o   No actus reus
o   Addiction is a disease
o   Course of addiction eventually makes drug involuntary
Johnson v. State
è Δ convicted of statute that attempts to criminate drug transmission between mother and child after birth but before the umbilical cord is severed. Δ used drugs during pregnancies of daughter and son.
è Held: Statute is defunct due to legislative intent and policy