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Criminal Law
University of Toledo School of Law
Hamilton, Melissa

Criminal Law outline

Actus reas – the physical component of the crime
Must be a voluntary act that causes social harm, look for actus reas issues when:
i.      D did not complete a criminal act, but has guilty thoughts, words, states of possession, or status
ii.      D does an involuntary act
iii.      D has an omission or failure to act
Thoughts alone are not enough
i.      Possession is an act if possessor knowingly procured, received, or was aware of his control of the thing long enough for him to have been able to get rid of it
Defined as volitional movement, including habitual conduct that the defendant is unaware he is doing
Model Penal Code: requires that the act be voluntary, voluntary does not include:
i.      Reflex or convulsion
ii.      Bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep
iii.      Bodily movement under hypnotic suggestion
iv.      Bodily movement not otherwise the product of the effort of the actor, either conscious or habitual
Self induced state – D’s earlier voluntary conduct may deprive him of the involuntary defense
Prosecution has the burden to prove that an act which was the proximate and actual cause of the social harm was voluntary
Omissions – in general, there is no duty to act
i.      There are five exceptions 
1.      Status relationship – dependence on one party of the other as in marriage, children, etc.
2.      Contractual obligation – duty created by express or implied contract, as in a lifeguard’s duty to save a drowning swimmer
3.      Creation of risk – duty created if the defendant’s acts gave rise to risk of the victim
4.      Voluntary assistance – duty created when assistance begins, and the person is isolated from the care of others
5.      Statute – some acts are required by statute, failure to act is illegal, as in filing a tax return.
ii.      To find culpability, there must be:
1.      Omission of a known duty to act
2.      That is possible to be performed safely
a.       Duty to act is overridden if the ability to perform the duty safely is not possessed by the person who owes the duty.
3.      With the required mens rea
Mens rea – mental state requirement
General v. Specific intent
i.      General intent (knowingly) – typically the intent needed to complete the physical acts or circumstances of a crime
a.       A crime requiring general intent is a crime for which it must merely be shown that D desired to commit the act which served as the actus reus
b.      Can be assumed from the act itself
i.            General intent can be inferred from the fact that D engaged in the proscribed conduct.
1.      An offense consists of 1) assault (act) 2) of a federal officer (circumstance) 3) who is performing his duties (circumstance)
2.      If offense does not include any intent beyond the actus reus of the offense itself, then it is a general intent crime
ii.      Specific intent crime (purposely) – a special mental element unrelated to the physical act
1.      Includes intent or purpose to do some future act or achieve some further consequence
2.      Provides that an actor must be aware of an attendant circumstance. Intent CANNOT be presumed for SI
3.      If the above offense included a element “with the purpose of impeding the officer from completing his duties, it become a specific intent crime
iii.      Intoxication/mistake of fact issues
1.      Intoxication does not excuse a general intent crime
2.      Intoxication is a defense to a crime if it negates an existence of an element of the crime
3.      May negate the specific intent for a particular crime, if the person is too drunk to for the intent
a.       D breaks and enters, but is too drunk to have any intent to commit larceny or felony inside. D is not guilty of Burglary.
4.      Mistake of fact is more likely to negate required specific intent
a.       D breaks and enters, in an attempt to carry away something that he mistakenly thinks belong to him. D is not guilty of burglary.
iv.      Common Law Definitions
1.      Intent
a.       Purposely – it is the desire of the actor
b.      Knowingly :
i.      Conduct or result element – a person who knowingly causes a particular result or knowingly engages in specified conduct is said to have ‘intended’ the harmful conduct or result
ii.      Attendant circumstance – the defendant acts knowingly if he is aware of the fact or of a high probability of the existence of the fact
2.      Willfully – 2 possible meanings
a.       Intentionally or recklessly
b.      Act done with a bad purpose or to disobey the law – if this meaning is applied it can be used as an exception to the mistake of law rule
3.      Maliciously –D realizes the risk their conduct creates and engages in the conduct anyways. (looks like reckless)
Model penal code definitions – most statutes have abandoned the common law specific and general intent crimes
i.      Purposely – conscious objective
1.      Conduct element – conscious objective to engage in that conduct
2.      Circumstance element – aware that those circumstances exist, or the hope or belief that they do
3.      Result element – conscious objective to cause that result
ii.      Knowingly – consciously aware that result is practically certain
1.      Conduct element

ecution’s interpretation
2.      Person can rely on a statement of a law given to him by a person charged with construing and enforcing that law
ii.      Lambert Defense: (1) Conduct was wholly passive (2) No actual notice of law (3) Violation involved a regulatory offense (Rarely works)
iii.      Fair notice: everyone is presumed to know the law, the only exceptions are
1.      Law punishes omission
2.      Duty to act was based on a status, not an act
3.      The offense was malum prohibitum
iv.      Ignorance or mistake negating mens rea (different law mistake)
1.      D’s misunderstanding of another law negates the mens rea element
a.       Specific intent – defense, reasonable or not, is applicable if the specified intent is negated
b.      General intent – there is no different law defense to general intent crime
c.       Strict liability – there is no different law defense to specific intent crime
v.      Model penal code: mistake of law
1.      Neither knowledge nor recklessness nor negligence as to whether conduct constitutes a crime, or as to the existence meaning or application of the law is a defense
a.       Exceptions
i.      Reliance on a reasonable official statement of law
ii.      Fair notice: the law was known to D and was not published or made readily available
iii.      A different law mistake negates the mens rea
Transferred intent – D’s intent transfers from actual victim to the             intended victim
i. If the crime that is transferred is less than the crime intended on the original victim the court will combine transferred intent and the          greater mens rea used to cover the lesser related crime if the crimes        are related  
ii. There must be some connection between the two crimes
·         Transferred intent does not transfer the intent to cause one type of social harm to another.
There must be a concurrence between D’s mental state and the act, and there must be concurrence between D’s mental state and the harmful