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Criminal Law
Villanova University School of Law
Chanenson, Steven L.

Criminal Law – Fall 2014
Professor Chanenson
I.                   Criminal justice system overview
a.       State has power to deprive individuals of life, liberty, and property
b.      Must have due process
c.       Legal reasoning
                                                              i.      By example
                                                            ii.      By precedent
                                                          iii.      Three steps:
1.      Similarity
2.      Rule from case is derived
3.      Rule from case is applied to facts of new case
d.      Note: moral reasoning generally left to the legislature
                                                              i.      Courts apply law
II.                Purposes of criminal punishment
a.       Three factors (which sometimes conflict)
                                                              i.      Deterrence
1.      Deterring socially unacceptable behavior
                                                            ii.      Retribution
1.      Punishing morally wrong conduct
                                                          iii.      Rehabilitation
1.      Punishment intended to help the offender improve in some aspect
b.      Cases:
                                                              i.      People v. Kellogg
1.      What is purpose for punishing drunk homeless guy?
2.      Case doesn’t fit neatly into any of these purposes
                                                            ii.      US v. Holloway
1.      ?
c.       Discretion
                                                              i.      Pervades system at every level
                                                            ii.      Can be used to do what is “right”
                                                          iii.      Can also be used for abuse
III.             Constitutional limits on crimes
a.       Proportionality
                                                              i.      8th Amendment – rough correspondence between severity of crime and severity of punishment
                                                            ii.      Death penalty too severe for:
1.      Rape
2.      Felony murder (w/o actually killing victims or displaying extreme recklessness)
3.      Mentally impaired
4.      Children
b.      Vagueness
                                                              i.      Extends from the Due Process clause
                                                            ii.      Defendants must have notice
1.      Statutory vagueness can prevent people from notice, knowing that their conduct is unlawful
                                                          iii.      Statutory vagueness is an opportunity for arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement
1.      Gray v. Kohl (vague statute allowed for prosecution of guy giving out bibles near school)
IV.              Defining criminal conduct
a.       Voluntary acts that cause harm
                                                              i.      Voluntary, affirmative act that causes harm, done with culpable intent, and defined by a statute
b.      Voluntary acts
                                                              i.      Defendants who harm others through no voluntary act of their own (unconscious, convulsing, sleepwalking, etc.) are not deemed to have acted voluntarily
c.       Cause harm
                                                              i.      Mostly reserved for homicide cases
d.      Interpreting conduct terms in criminal statutes
                                                              i.      Methods
1.      Look at statutory language
2.      Use legislative history to interpret statutes
                                                            ii.      Statutory language split
1.      Espressio unius, exclusion alterius
a.       Items in statutory list are presumed to be exclusive, any items not mentioned are presumed to be exclusive
2.      Ejusdem generis
a.       Serves to limit catch-all phrase by limiting interpretation
b.      General terms of a statute are interpreted in light of specific terms of same statute
c.       Special controls the general
d.      Later controls the earlier
e.       Presumed to be constitutional
e.       Cases
                                                              i.      In re Joseph G.
1.      Assisting suicide (both kids tried to commit suicide)
                                                            ii.      People v. Cleaves
1.      2nd degree murder (assisted someone with suicide, only one person planned on dying)
V.                 Rule of Lenity
a.       Ambiguities in criminal statutes are resolved in defendant’s favor
b.      Not always true in practice though
c.       There must be extreme unsureness
d.      Cases:
                                                              i.      Brogan v. United States
1.      Brogan charged with making a false statement for saying “no” when asked by federal agents if he had ever taken payments
2.      Officers knew he had, was charged with making false statement under literal interpretation of law
                                                            ii.      US v. Bronston
1.      Bronston not convicted of false statement for telling truthful yet misleading statement to federal officer
e.       Price’s definitions:
                                                              i.      Lenity is last resort when other interpretation methods fail to yield answer
                                                            ii.      Limits non-textual, broad readings of statutory language
                                                          iii.      Compels choosing the narrowest interpretation on plausible options
VI.              General intent[CR1] 
a.       General intent
                                                              i.      Intent to carry out one’s physical activity
                                                            ii.      Defendant need not have intended result element
                                                          iii.      Merely has to intend conduct/circumstances
b.      Cases:
                                                              i.      People v. Stark
1.      Guy mixes funds, intended to mix funds
2.      Stark didn’t know what he was doing was a crime
3.      Convicted because it was a general intent crime – he intended to do the act, therefore he was guilty
                                                            ii.      People v. Sergeant
1.      Child abuse case where guy shakes baby
2.      General intent crime, so his conviction stands ultimately
3.      Only had to prove that he intended the act of shaking the baby
                                                          iii.      In re VV
1.      General intent +
2.      Cherry bomb case, arson statute required “malice”
3.      This term is malleable (S&H at 122)
a.       “Intent without justification or excuse, to commit a wrongful act” – (123)
4.      Malice is used to make a cr

2.      Ignorance of law is no excuse
3.      But this is an exception (see above)
X.                 Strict liability
a.       Prohibited no matter what – dispense with mens rea requirement of offenses
b.      Usually used for traffic offenses, other public welfare regulations (restaurants and stuff)
c.       Cases
                                                              i.      State v. Loge
1.      Convicted for having open alcohol container in back of car, mistaken fact that it was there was not a defense
2.      Dissent: punishment is for those that choose wrong instead of right, which didn’t happen here
                                                            ii.      State v. Kremer
1.      Strict liability doesn’t apply when there is no negligence and no intent do to the act which turned out to be criminal
2.      Guy ran red light when brakes failed
                                                          iii.      State v. TRD
1.      Sex offender doesn’t re-register his address
2.      Guilty under strict liability approach b/c of legislative purpose
3.      Always want to know where sex offender is – not knowing to re-register is bad, esp. when he’s been warned with letters
d.      Note:
                                                              i.      We use the power of criminal law to enforce certain norms/behaviors and punish those that are truly blameworthy by providing incentive for them to behave the way we want them to
XI.              Model Penal Code (MPC) – (S&H 195 + handout)
a.       General
                                                              i.      Published by ALI, designed to be used as a whole
                                                            ii.      States have cherry-picked portions of it
                                                          iii.      So sometimes parts have been adopted by legislatures and other times it’s just an alternative approach (persuasive authority that can be used to interpret statutes)
                                                          iv.      Problems with MPC
1.      “Human” element doesn’t play a part
2.      Very rigid, tough to apply uniformly
3.      Justice and fairness are measured by legislature only
a.       Judges can do that in common law
b.      (since “malice” is malleable there)
4.      MPC is all about cognitive fault
a.       Purposely/knowingly
 [CR1]Bottom line:
1.       General intent = mental state w/regard to conduct
2.       Specific intent = mental state w/regard to results
 [CR3]Mistake of fact v. law
1.       Line can be pretty unclear
2.       This gives judges flexibility in different situations
3.       Example:
a.        Ogilvie – mistake of fact about whether divorce was finalized or mistake of law about his legal status?