Criminal Law Outline
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Setting the Stage
Proof of Guilt at Trial
1. Proof beyond reasonable doubt
i. Non quantifiable (near certitude of guilt ) Moral certainty, firmly convinced, no waiver or vacillation
ii. Used to protect society from the power of the state, police power and judicial power.
iii. Used because defendants might face loss of liberty/convicts are stigmatized.
2. Enforcing the presumption of innocence
i. Owens v. state: guy found drunk in car parked in driveway, drunk driving?
3. Jury nullification: A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness.
Principles of Punishment
1. Two main theories of punishment
i. Negative retributivism: gives us permission to punish
ii. Positive retributivism: you have to punish offenders
iii. Assaultive retribution: we hate criminals so we should punish them, restore status quo
2. Proportionality of punishment: constitutional principles
1. 8th Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment (retributivist principle)
2. Capital punishment for rape, unconstitutional
3. Recidivist punishments, look at the three factors to determine constitutionality
i. The gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty
ii. The sentences imposed on other criminals in the same jurisdiction
iii. The sentences imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions
Modern Role of Criminal Statutes
1. Legislative/court relationship
1. Three doctrines
i. Principle of legality: prohibits judicial crime creation
ii. Void for vagueness: forbids whole sale legislative delegation of lawmaking authority to courts
iii. Strict Construction: judicial interpretation of unclear statutes should be biased in favor of accused.
2. Under due process of law, you must put people on notice of new crimes, foreseeability.
1. Conduct/Physical Act/Omission (voluntary act)
3. Harmful result
2. MPC definition of involuntary acts (MPC 2.01):
2. Bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep
3. Conduct during hypnosis
4. Bodily movement that otherwise isn’t a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual.
3. Omissions: no voluntary act, but you’re liable because you had a legal duty to act.
1. 5 ways one can be criminally liable for omissions
i. Statute imposes a duty
ii. Status relationship (parent/child, husband/wife)
iii. Assumed contractual duty of care (nursing homes)
iv. Voluntary assumption of care and so secluded the helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid.
v. Person creates a risk of harm to another
2. Some states have good Samaritan laws with modes penalties for not acting.
4. MPC Actus Reus
1. Material Elements
i. Conduct: the physical behavior of the defendant
ii. Circumstance: an objective fact or condition that exists in the real world when the defendant engages in conduct.
iii. Result: the consequence or outcome caused by the defendant’s conduct
2. Act/Action: a bodily movement whether voluntary or involuntary (MPC 1.13)
i. Doesn’t define voluntary act, but says a person isn’t guilty of a crime under MPC unless his liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act or omission to preform an act which he is physicall capable. (MPC 2.01)
3. Omissions under (MPC 2.01(3))
i. The omission is made sufficient by the law defining the offense
ii. A duty to preform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by law
5. Distinguishing Acts from omissions
1. Barber v. Superior Ct.
i. Removing life support as an affirmative act v. Omission
ii. A physician has no duty to continue treatment, once it has proven to be ineffecti
t is something prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt)
i. It’s the persons conscience objective to engage in the object or cause the result
ii. If the offense involves the attendant circumstances, he is aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes or hopes they exist.
2. Knowingly: A person acts knowing with respect to a material element of an offense when:
i. If the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist, and
ii. If the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result
3. Recklessly: A person acts recklessly with respect 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.
4. Negligently: 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.