Criminal Law Outline
CRIMES Common Law Rape Homicide Larceny Robbery Arson Burglary Statutory Statutory False Receiving stolen Incest Rape Embezzlement Pretenses Theft Property
Defenses Negates elements “Yes but…” (justified/excuse)
intoxication mistake in entrapment self duress necessity fact defense defense insanity of others
Essential Elements of a Crime The prosecution is generally required to prove the following elements of a criminal offense:
1) Actus Reus (guilty act): a physical act or unlawful omission by the defendant
An action is required for a crime to be committed. Actus Rues helps to:
a) decide things like, venue, time and place of crime, statutes of limitations;
b) and prove a crime was committed.
2) Mens Rea (guilty mind): The state of mind or intent of the defendant at the
time of his act
3) Concurrence: The physical act and mental state existed at the same time, and
4) Harmful Result and Causation: A harmful result caused by the defendant’s act.
Act (+Result) + Mental State = Crime – Defense
Common Law / MPC: This is the physical or external element of a crime. Every crime has an actus reus, this must be voluntary.
MPC: Actus Reus is comprised of conduct, circumstances and results. (Just being is not enough)
1) Voluntary Act: The defendant’s act must be voluntary in the sense that it must
be a conscious exercise of the will. The following are not considered voluntary
a) An act which was not produced by the defendant (i.e. A shoves B into C, with the result being that C falls to his death. B cannot be held criminally liable for C’s death.
b) Reflexive or convulsive acts
c) Acts performed while the defendant was either unconscious or asleep unless the defendant knew that she might fall asleep or become unconscious and engage in dangerous behavior
2) Omission as an “Act” Failure to act will result in criminal liability provided the following three requirements are met:
a) Legal Duty to Act: The defendant must have a legal duty to act under the circumstances. This can arise from (SCRAP):
iii) Relationship between the defendant and the victim
a) A parent has a duty to prevent physical harm to his/her children
b) A spouse has the duty to prevent harm to his/her spouse
iv) Assumption of Care
v) Creation of Peril is by the defendant
b) Knowledge of Fact giving Rise to Duty. The defendant must be aware of the facts creating the duty to act
c) Reasonably Possible to Perform: If a parent can’t swim , he/she shouldn’t be expected to jump in and save the child.
If an affirmative defense is used, the defendant has the burden of persuasion and the burden of production.
Mens Rea: The reason that mens rea is normally required is to distinguish between accidental acts and acts performed by one with a “guilty mind.” The “guilty mind” acts are seen as more blameworthy and could be deterred. In strict liability crimes the mens rea is not required.
1) Common Law Intent
a) General Intent: All crimes require this. It is an awareness of all factors constituting the crime. i.e. false imprisonment the D must be aware that he is confining a person, and that the confinement has not been authorized by law or consented by the person being confined.
i) Inference of Intent from Actus Reus: The general intent can be inferred from the doing of the act.
ii) Transferred Intent: If D intended a harmful result to a particular person and in trying to carry out that intent causes a similar harmful result to another person his intent will be transferred from the intended person to the one actually harmed.
b) Specific Intent: If the definition of a crime requires not only the doing
of it with a specific intent or objective, the crime is a “specific intent”
i) Proof: Specific Intent cannot be inferred from the actus reus. The prosecutor must produce evidence tending to prove the existence of the specific intent.
ii) Defenses: Some defenses, like intoxication and unreasonable mistake of fact apply only to specific intent crimes.
iii) Specific Intent Crimes:
a) Solicitation: The intent to have the person solicited commit the crime,
b) Attempt: The intent to complete a crime
c) Conspiracy: The intent to have the crime completed
d) 10 Premeditated Murder: Premeditation
e) Assault: Intent to commit a battery
f) Larceny & Robbery: The intent to permanently deprive another of his interest in the property taken
g) Burglary: Intent to commit a felony in the dwelling
h) Forgery: Intent to defraud
i) False pretense: Intent to defraud
j) Embezzlement: Intent to defraud
c) Malice: To establish malice in crimes requiring it, such as arson and
common law murder, the prosecutor needs only to show the defendant
recklessly disregarded an obvious or high risk that the particular harmful
result would occur.
d) Strict Liability Offenses: The major difference between this and
General or Specific Intent offenses is that certain defenses such as
mistake in fact are not available
i) Identifying Strict Liability Offenses: MORE
2) Model Penal Code: Eliminates the distinction between general and specific intent. The M.P.C. has four categories that mental state of a criminal offense can be described. They are:
a) Purposely: A person acts purposely with respect to his conduct when it is his conscious o
e so many causes in fact of a particular event that this doctrine does not effectively limit criminal liability.
1) Simultaneous Causes (Substantial Factor Test): If two or more people
simultaneously cause harm so that neither person alone is a “but for” cause of
the injury, the law creates a fiction to allow both actors to be prosecuted for
their actions. The question asked is whether each cause was a substantial
factor in the outcome.
2) Hastening an Inevitable Result: The important question to ask is whether, but for the act, the bad result would have occurred at the precise time it did.
B) Proximate Cause: This serves to limit the number of persons subject to liability. This doctrine essentially decides which of the actors who are a cause in fact of harm should be held criminally responsible for that harm. The question to be answered is whether any intervening causes occurred after the defendant’s conduct to “break the chain” of moral culpability. There are three things to look at to determine if the consequences of an act were “reasonably foreseeable” by the actor, they are:
1) the remoteness of the actor’s conduct to the harm caused;
2) the independence of the intervening causes that occurred after the defendant’s act; and
3) whether the actor intended the consequences.
C) Year and a Day Rule: Common Law is that a person could not be held responsible
for causing a criminal homicide if the death occurred more than one year and a day
after the injury was inflicted. Under many modern statutes the year and a day rule had
been abrogated and a person could be held responsible for causing a criminal homicide
if a death occurred beyond a year and a day.
D) MPC and Causation: For crimes requiring mens rea the Code asks whether the
harmful result was “too remote or accidental in its occurrence to have a bearing on the
actor’s liability or on the gravity of the offense.” MPC § 2.03(2)(b) The Code also
provides that with respect to strict liability offenses, no causation exists “unless the
actual result is a probable consequence of the actor’s conduct.” MPC §2.03(4) MPC
is more restrictive than the common law, and focuses on the probability of the result,
not simply whether the result is too remote or accidental.