Criminal Law Outline
I. Intro Material
i. Fair notice that something is a crime, before the conduct occurs. (ex post facto)
b. Statutory Construction
i. Prosecution must prove all beyond a reasonable doubt
1. Lawyers must;
a. Identify what is charged
b. Locate/Study the Statute
c. Isolate/Record each element
d. Compare the proven evidence to the elements, and ask whether there is proof of each. ASSUME NOTHING
II. Actus Reus
a. “Bad Act” or a certain minimum Mental Element: Volition.
b. Voluntary Act
i. The act itself must be
1. conscious and
2. of ones own volition
ii. Seizures, sleeping or any other time a person is not conscious of what they are doing will lack the conscious requirement for Actus Reus.
1. If a person creates their own state of unconsciousness, ie drinking heavily, then the lack of consciousness there still is a sufficient act.
2. If a person engaging in a course of conduct knowing he will or might become unconscious and do harm, could be criminally liable.
iv. Voluntary Act v. Coercion –
1. Voluntary – willed action. (Bank robbery forced upon him)
2. Coercion – he was given options, he chose one (voluntary) but was coerced into doing so.
c. Omissions *MC QUESTION*
i. Duties – unless falls under this there is no legal claim/duty to act
1. D was under a legal duty to act
2. D had the necessary knowledge and
3. It would have been possible for D to act.
ii. Sources of Legal Duty
1. Statute – require you to act; file and pay IRS, child abuse must be reported.
2. Contract: Lifeguard has a duty to save.
3. Status Relationships: **Spouses, parent/child**
4. Voluntarily assuming a duty of care and then secluding from that help.
5. Creating the risk of harm to another.
a. If you put someone in harms way you have a duty to get them out of it.
i. E.g. drop naked person off in the middle of the woods in the middle of winter to walk home.
d. Social Harm
i. Negation endangering destruction of an individual group or state interest that is socially valuable.
ii. Important values put at risk by the conduct itself irregardless of the result.
iii. Almost every crime will have some harm attached to it.
iv. Elements of a Social Harm
1. Result Crimes –
2. Conduct Crimes –
3. Attendant Circumstances
a. proof of certain circumstance that must have existed at the time of the act in question.
i. E.g. injury of a federal officer while performing his duties.
ii. Attendant: a fed officer performing duties.
III. Mens Rea
a. Nature of Mens Rea
i. Meaning: Guilty Mind, bad mind.
1. Modern: Culpability, or state of mind of the offender.
2. Your intent controls how blame worth you are
ii. For most crimes it is the one thing that tells you how serious it is, how much punishment usually should be deserved.
iii. Conceptions of mens rea
1. Broad: any morally culpable state of mind
a. You did something with a morally culpable state of mind
b. Common law, but more states are now influenced by the MPC.
2. Narrow: Elemental – mental state and statutes requires
a. Mental state specifically required by this statute
b. Model penal code.
b. Intent (COMMON LAW ONLY)
i. Transferred Intent –
1. Mens rea transfers victim (to whom he aimed) to victim (who got struck) in same crim, but not across different crimes.
a. Different crimes = different mens rea
ii. General Intent – A mental state pertaining only the action of the crime itself. Intent to commit the act.
1. D need not have intended to violate the law
iii. Specific Intent – a mental state in addition to any necessary for the crime itself.
1. intent to do some further act or cause some additional consequence beyond that which must have been committed or cause in order to complete the crime.
a. Future Act
b. Special Motive – assaulting another person with the intent to humiliate (hate crimes)
c. Awareness of circumstances – with knowledge that the person is under 18 years of age and intentionally providing obscene material.
iv. Knowledge- Aware of the law and aware that conduct violated it.
v. Reckless –
vi. Negligence – An act done without awareness of the facts, but with a “gross” lack of care.
1. Higher probability of harm
vii. Greater Degree of unreasonableness
c. Strict Liability – COMMON LAW
i. Only other time where mens rea is not required.
1. No proof of mental state needed
ii. E.g. traffic tickets, pure food and drug laws.
iii. Usually have light sentences
1. Statutory Rape –
a. Consensual sex but by virtue of the statute, because of age, it is illegal. STATUTE DEFINES IT THIS WAY.
d. State of Mind/Knowledge – MPC
a. 4 Culpability Terms (4 possible mens rea states)
1. Conduct Element
a. Conscious Objective (it’s your goal/objective/meant to) to engage in that conduct.
2. Circumstances Element
a. Aware those circumstances exist.
3. Or Result Element?
i. Actual cause, (cause in fact, “but for” cause)
1. Not all actual causes are proximate
2. Possibilities of Actual Cause (Harris vocabulary)
a. Direct – one actor involved doing an action and something results without the involvement of any intervening factor or cause.
b. Concurrent Sufficient Causes
i. Substantial Factor
ii. Two actors acting at the same time and either one is a but for cause.
c. Two or more d’s acts of neither alone would kill, but together do cause death: both actual cause.
ii. Proximate cause: From all “but for” causes, select those upon whom it is fair/just to lay blame.
1. More complicated, but not a precise forumal
2. Most cases straightforward, one actor one result, issues arise with intervening causes. (D is actual cause, sets things in mothion, before actual result somthign else comes along, that is not of the D’s doing)
3. Does the intervening cause “break the chain” of causation?
a. If breaks chain, initial actor is not held liable.
4. All proximate are actual, but not all actual are proximate.
a. Method – Intervening causes breaks the chain of causation or not?
5. Intervening Causes (COMMON LAW) *Foreseeable is Key!
a. Coincidence – wrong place wrong time, D acts put the victim at a certain place/time, where intervening force acts upon.
i. Coincidence breaks the chain, unless foreseeable.
ii. Unless the coincidence was foreseeable.
b. Response – when it involves a reaction to the conditions created by D.
i. Unless abnormal or unforeseeable.
ii. E.g. Medical care being rendered.
1. Always considered normal
2. Even negligent
3. Must be grossly negligent.
iii. Breaks the chain ONLY if the response is abnormal, and also unforeseeable
iii. Contributory negligence – the victim is not a defense to a crime.
1. E.g. Stafford gotten himself good and drunk is he contributory negligent? No it makes NO difference.
Omissions/failure to do something will never cut the chain.