Criminal Law Goode Fall 2017
Types of Arguments
Policy – overall policy argues against the results or the parts of the statute
Analogy – to other crimes and other results
Textual (statutory language) – look at the language to see if the emphasis resulted in a change to act, circumstances, or results
Consequences – bring out the parade of horrible, knowledge of consequences
Historical – look at history of statute and intent of legislature (or lack of action thereof) or prior rulings (precedent)
Intent of legislator- what did they mean/want?
Theories of Punishment
Deterrence – believes that offender knows he will be punished, so he will curb his activities (“rational utility” – balance potential gains by potential loses)
Incapacitation – removing or blunting those offenders from society
Retributive/Punishment – Retributive theory pre-supposes “moral guilt” for seeking revenge.
Rehabilitation – correct warped sense of values and return “normal” person for societal contribution
Condemnation (of a given behavior) – stigma of committing a crime; prevent stigma
History: looking at history to give meaning to the statute
Structure: looking at the structure of the statute to give it meaning
Precedent: looking at past court interpretations of the statute
Policy: looking at the statute considering potential policy aims and effects
Parade of Horrible: looking at the merits of an interpretation considering potential negative consequences
Methods of Statutory Interpretation
Legislative Intent: looking at the statute considering the purpose of the legislation
Nature of the Statute: looking at how the statute attempts to accomplish an objective
Reading of the Text: strictly parsing the text of the statute
Statutory Comparison: looking at the statute considering other statutes
General Principles: interpreting the statute considering certain general principles of law
So-called defense – disproving one element of the offense. Prosecution has burden to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt. (alibi, mistake of fact)
True defenses – despite everything being true something that prevents or reduces liability(self-defense). Defendant has burden to prove beyond a preponderance of evidence
Voluntary Act Requirement
For there to be criminal liability, there needs to be a voluntary act (or omission); conduct can only serve as the basis for criminal liability if it is voluntary.
Why does the court and legislature say there must be a voluntary act?
Criminal law’s object is to punish. People need to be morally blameworthy. If you are not acting voluntarily, how can you be blameworthy.
MODEL PENAL CODE – (2.01)
2.01- A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable. (defines voluntary by describing what is involuntary)
Texas Penal Code 1.07 and 6.01
1.07(a1): bodily movement whether voluntary or involuntary, and includes speech
6.01: Requirement of voluntary act
State v. Mercer (I killed my cheating wife and kids while I was unconscious)
Because Mercer is unconscious at the time he commits the act, he does not do so voluntarily; therefore, he cannot be criminally liable. ≠ later can’t recall
“The absence of consciousness not only precludes the existence of any specific mental state, but also excludes the possibility of a voluntary act without which there can be no criminal liability.”
Unconsciousness is not in all instances a means of escaping criminal liability: an individual with a history of seizures gets in a car (commits the voluntary act) with a sufficient state of mind (knowing that he has a history of seizures) to set a level of criminal liability.
No liability for- seizures, unconscious acts, acts under duress, reflexive acts.
The general rule appears to be that an accused who causes the death of another because of becoming unconscious because of an epileptic seizure is criminally responsible in undertaking to drive knowing that he or she may become unconscious. The critical factor is knowledge that one is subject to epileptic seizures.
Farmer v State (My wife left out the wrong pills.)
Appellant charged with DWI after falling asleep due to “accidentally” taking Ambien and his pain meds prior to driving. Appellant did not intentionally or voluntarily take Ambien. It was left out by his wife and he took in unintentionally.
Defendant contests that the judge should have instructed the jury on voluntariness. Holding: The law does not include a SOM requirement. The judge did not err in not instructing on voluntariness. The issue was whether he was intentionally intoxicated, not if he involuntarily took the pill. This is strict liability.
Statute consisted of three parts. 1 act and 2 circumstances.
Act: operating a motor vehicle
Circumstance: 1. Intoxicated. 2. Public Place
No state of mind requirement.
State v Falatar (I stabbed and drown my wife while I was sleep walking)
Sleepwalking is sometimes offered as a basis for unconsciousness.
Falatar stabbed his wife 54 times then drowned her in their pool in the back yard. He did all this while he claimed to be sleepwalking.
The appellate court found that there was no error in not instructing the jury explicitly about sleepwalking. They stated that sleepwalking is not a voluntary act and the jury was properly instructed about voluntary acts. However, the court of appeals also found that there was conflicting medical testimony if during sleep walking actions are “involuntary”.
Reitz (I killed my girlfriend while sleep walking)
ey have a duty to act, & are physically capable of acting.
Court cites the American Bystander Rule has little support.
Kuntz had duty because she created peril and lived with him (6 years). Hard to prove that he would not have died if she had of called 911.
Holding: The District Court’s order denying Kuntz motion to amend or strike the amended information is affirmed.
State v Mally (Hey Honey Just Lay Here and Die)
Cited in Kuntz
Under certain circumstances a husband has a duty to summon medical aid for his wife and breach of that duty could render him criminally liable. Here the wife was dying on the bed and the husband did nothing more than offer her a glass of water. Found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
People v. Beardsley (My Mistress ain’t my duty)
The legal duty imposed on the personal relationship of husband and wife could not be extended to a temporary non-family relationship. The married defendant had no duty to summon medical help for his mistress, who was staying at his house for the weekend, after she took morphine and fell into a “stupor”.
Billingslea v. State (The child doesn’t take care of the parent)
Hazel Billingslea was a 94-year-old, bedridden woman living with her son (defendant) and his family. Texas Social Services came to check on Ms. Billingslea and found her to be neglected and severely injured from this neglect. Her son was charged with the crime of injury to an elderly individual under Texas law. He was originally convicted, but the court of appeals overturned this conviction and ordered his acquittal. The court of appeals found that there was no statutory duty to act and thus the son could not be convicted of a crime for failing to act when he had no duty to do so. The Court of Criminal Appeals heard the appeal of this acquittal.
Court of Criminal Appeals affirms. “While children may have a moral duty to care for their elderly parents, moral imperatives are not the functional equivalent of legal duties. Since we do not recognize legal duties derived from the common law, V.T.C.A. Penal Code, § 1.03(a), supra, and since no one was assigned a statutory duty to care for an elderly person, the version of § 22.04 relative to omissions toward elderly individuals under which the appellant was indicted is unenforceable”