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Criminal Law
University of Toledo School of Law
Porter, Nicole Buonocore

Criminal Law

Professor Porter

Spring 2012

I. Criminal Law Introduction

A. Criminal law is different from other types of law – Community condemnation

B. Standard of Proof – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

1. High standard of proof because jury has so much power

2. Meaning of reasonable doubt?

C. Presumption of Innocence

D. Jury Nullification

1. Jurors believe the facts as proven by the prosecution and understand that, under law, the defendant has committed a crime, but for some reason, decide to acquit the defendant.

2. Jury has the right to nullify because of double jeopardy.

II. Principles of Punishment

A. Theories of punishment

1. Retributivism – defeat of the wrongdoer at the hands of the victim that symbolizes the correct relative value of wrongdoer and victim. (Punishment is good even with no future good…past acts=punishable)

1. Majority today— Punish the wrongdoer b/c they deserve it

2. Problem: victimless crimes

3. Positive – ALWAYS punish the guilty but not the innocent

4. Negative- (Utilitarianism) Punishing the innocent person is never justified

5. Assaultive- Punishment out of anger/hatred for criminals

2. Utilitarianism – purpose of all laws is to augment total happiness of the community— an attempt to deter future bad conduct

1. Only punish criminals if some good comes out of it

2. Forms of utilitarianism

a. General Deterrence- Punish one to send a message to all

b. Specific Deterrence (individual)-

i. Intimidation- Scared to commit the crime again

ii. Incapacitation- Cannot commit crimes in prison

c. Rehabilitation/Reform- change the person/criminal to keep them from doing bad acts in the future

B. Proportionality of Punishment

1. 8th Amendment: No excessive bail or fines, no cruel and unusual punishment.

2. Not directed at only type of punishment but also against punishment greatly disproportionate to the offense charged.

3. Rule: A punishment is excessive and unconstitutional if it:

1. Makes no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment and hence is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering, or

2. Grossly out of proportion to severity of crime.

Example: Death penalty for rape is disproportionate

Example: Three strikes rule for violent crimes is not

III. Modern Role of Criminal Statutes

A. Legislature/Court Relationship: Three doctrines

1. Principle of legality – prohibits judicial crime creation

2. Void for vagueness – legislature cannot delegate lawmaking authority to courts.

3. Rule of strict construction says that judicial interpretation of unclear statutes should be biased in favor of the accused.

IV. Components of Crime (Actus Reus & Mens Rea)

A. Actus Reus – physical part of the crime (Objective)

1. A (1) conduct (voluntary act) that (2) causes (3) social harm (harmful result)—–omissions (failure to act where there was a legal duty)

1. Example: A picks up a knife and stabs B, killing B, the actus reus of a criminal homicide occurred: A performed a voluntary act (stabbing B) that caused B’s death (the social harm)

2. Involuntary act

a. Jill Point a loaded gun at jacks head telling him what to do—Jacks acts are involuntary

b. Spasm are involuntary

c. Unconsciousness is not always a defense (intoxicated)

2. Generally Omissions are not crimes unless there is a duty to act

1. Five ways one can be criminally liable for omissions:

a. Statute imposes a duty (Tax Law, Good Samaritan)

b. Special relationship (Mother/Daughter)

c. Assumed a contractual duty of care for another (lifeguard)

d. One has voluntarily assumed the care of another and so secluded the helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid

e. Person creates a risk of harm to another (Creator has the duty to rescue the victim)

f. Undertaking (Begin to rescue-must continue to rescue)

3. Social Harm – the negation, endangering, or destruction of an individual, group, or state interest, which is deemed socially valuable.

1. Result Crime- Murder- law punishes because of an unwanted outcome (Murder- Unwanted death of another)

a. Punished for outcome not conduct

2. Conduct Crime- The law prohibits specific dangerous behavior (drunk driving— trying to protect from a social harm)

a. Punished for the conduct not the outcome

4. Attendant Circumstances: Where a condition must be present, in conjunction with the prohibited conduct or result, in order to constitute a crime.

1. Purposefully, knowingly or negligently causing death

2. Breaking and entering of other w/ intent to commit a felony

B. Mens Rea: Thought about the harm

1. Nature of Mens Rea – Act alone is not enough to be guilty unless the mind is guilty


ect 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 a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor’s conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor’s situation.

i. Still a degree of awareness.

4. Negligently (Stupid…should have been aware)

a. 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, considering the nature and purpose of his conduct and the circumstances known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation.

d. 2.02(3) Culpability Required Unless Otherwise Provided

i. When the culpability sufficient to establish a material element of an offense is not prescribed by law, such element is established if a person acts purposely, knowingly, or recklessly with respect thereto (negligence left out).

e. Note: Under CL, maliciously, intentionally and knowingly are the same.

4. Knowledge – Knowledge of Attendant Circumstances (Willful Blindness)à avoiding the knowledge

a. MPC 2.02(7): When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of its existence. (Practically certain that the acts will cause such result)

i. How to prove Willful Blindness

1. If there are overt physical acts to show that someone was deliberately trying to avoid the knowledge, (easier)

2. Psychological avoidance (purposely cutting off your own curiosity) is harder to prove.