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

Fall 2009
Professor Chanenson
I.                    Background
a.                   Modern USA Crim Law has largely statutory basis, as opposed to torts
II.                 Felony v. Misdemeanor
a.                   Felony: a crime that may be punished by more than 1 year in prison.
b.                  Misdemeanor: a crime that’s maximum punishment may not exceed 1 year in prison.
III.               Model Penal Code – criminal code compiled by scholars
a.                   Template for states to use in deciding which laws to use
IV.               Statutory interpretation
a.                   Methods
                                                              i.      Historical/Contextual – what does common law tell us about statutory application?
                                                            ii.      Textual – MPC, penal codes, constitution, etc.
                                                          iii.      Policy-based – court interprets statute to obtain a just result against contemporary legal context
1.        Fair Import – accurately interpret the vague language in the statute.
2.       Lenity – interpret the statute in the defendant’s favor
                                                           iv.      Keeler – guy beats wife when he finds out she’s pregnant, kills fetus
1.        Does statutory murder def’n, “killing a human being,” include a fetus?
2.       Formalism: apply the statute rigorously, look to common law meaning for anything vague
3.       Instrumentalism: figure out purpose/intent of statute and apply it to contemporary situation
V.                  Justification of Punishment
a.                   Just deserts – retributivism
b.                  General Deterrence – suffering of criminal serves as an example to other people and deter future crimes
c.                   Specific Deterrence (prevention) – punishment will be so unpleasant that criminal wont do it again
d.                  Incapacitation – segregate D from society to minimize harm
e.                   Rehabilitation – defendant is “sick,” need to cure his “crime disease”
I.        Actus Reus – physical portion of the crime
a.       Rule – Voluntary criminal act or criminalizable omission of voluntary act + Resulting Harm
                                                              i.      Attendant circumstances – sometimes vague and blurry, requires crime to be committed in certain situation (bribery, drunk driving requires driving a car)
                                                            ii.      Harm/Result – important for grading/sentencing, specific harm has to occur before statute applies (murder=death, arson=burned structure)
                                                          iii.      Causation – D must be responsible for the outcome
1.        But for causation – Result wouldn’t have happened but for D’s actions
2.       Proximate causation – Bad result is the natural and probably cause of D’s action
a.       Eggshell victim – D liable for harming victim w/ preexisting weakness
b.      Dependent intervening cause – sufficiently related to ∆’s conduct such that we want to make ∆ liable
                                                                                                                                      i.      ∆ shoots someone, they go to hospital
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Get very close to recovery but get a deadly infection and die
c.       Independent intervening cause – Unforeseeable event that isn’t the result of ∆’s conduct, frees ∆ from liability
                                                                                                                                      i.      ∆ shoots someone, they go to hospital
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Hospital burns down and kills them
3.       MPC requires “but for” causation
a.       Commonwealth v. Mcloskey – underage drinking, death, no independent intervening cause, provider of alcohol and place to drink it (mom) is “but for” cause
                                                           iv.      State v. Sowry – D brings drugs into prison. Loses control over his person and possessions when entering jail, therefore continued possession stops being voluntary.
b.      Omissions – (1) Legal Duty to Act, (2) Knowledge of the facts giving rise to the duty, and (3) Ability to Help (not put self at risk)
                                                              i.      Legal Duty to Act by: statute, contract, status/relationship; parent/child or spouse/spouse, voluntary assumption of care, creation of the peril.
                                                            ii.      State v. Miranda – D brings kid to hospital with all kinds of injuries
1.        Familial relationship establishes legal duty
2.       D knew duty was necessary given the injuries and was able to help
c.       Possession – Many states criminalize possession of certain items w/o getting rid of them
                                                              i.      Actual Possession – holding bag of weed in my hand
                                                            ii.      Constructive Possession – holding keys to car full of weed in my hand
                                                          iii.      Zandi – possession of shipping ticket = constructive possession of the drugs
d.      Status Crimes – Criminalization of a certain state of being
                                                              i.      Constitution keeps legislature from going overboard here
                                                            ii.      Courts don’t like to convict people for being addicted to drugs or being drunk
                                                          iii.      Robinson – court uses rehab as sentence for an addict
II.     Mens Rea – mental portion of the crime
a.       Rule
                                                              i.      Common Law
1.        Types of Mens Rea:
a.       General Intent – D need only be generally aware of the factors constituting the crime; need not intend the specific result
                                                                                                                                      i.      Blameworthy state of mind, doesn’t have to be proven BARD
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Battery, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment
b.      Specific Intent – D’s desire to achieve a specific result
                                                                                                                                      i.      Has to be proven BARD
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Murder, arson, robbery, burglary
c.       Malice – D acts with intent or reckless disregard, e.g. murder, arson
d.      Strict liability – no mental state

    D fails to report
2.       No conviction because court doesn’t expect him to know and he probably didn’t
b.      Vagueness – statutes must not be unreasonably vague
                                                              i.      People shouldn’t have to “guess” at the meaning
                                                            ii.      Morales – Chicago statute criminalizes loitering with gangsters
1.        Raises more questions than it answers – how do you know who is a gangster? What constitutes loitering? What exactly should a cop do about this? ETC.
1.        General Principles
a.       Common law definition: the killing of a human being by another human being with malice aforethought
                                                  i.      Malice aforethought
1.        Express – intentional killing
2.       Implied – intent to cause significant bodily harm
3.       How do you know if there’s malice?
a.       Intention to kill a human being
b.      Intention to inflict grievous bodily injury
c.       Extremely reckless disregard for life (depraved heart)
d.      Intention to commit a felony
                                                ii.      Common law gives different types of murder for the purpose of grading – policy decision, we want to punish some killings more than others
b.      Pennsylvania Pattern – good representation of a modern common law murder statute
                                                  i.      first (malice aforethought and premeditated) – I kill someone for their money
                                                ii.      second (malice aforethought) – I kill someone just to kill them (Johnny Cash)
                                              iii.      voluntary (passion) – I kill someone who is sleeping with my wife
                                               iv.      involuntary (misdemeanor-manslaughter or gross negligence)
                                                 v.      vehicular manslaughter (grossly negligent unlawful driving, intoxication)
c.       On exam, read your statute! Don’t use MPC if he gives you statute!
2.       Intentional Killings
a.      1st degree Murder – Premeditation + Deliberation
                                                  i.      Premeditation – think about beforehand – sliding scale of how long it takes to premeditate
1.        Some courts say no time at all and some say longer
2.       Just think about whether ∆ had enough time to form malice aforethought
                                               ii.      Deliberation – measurement and evaluation, can’t happen if there’s no premeditation
b.      2nd Degree Murder – Premeditation w/o Deliberation
                                                  i.      Commonwealth v. Carroll – ∆ shoots wife after argument
1.        Premeditation because he thought about the gun
2.       No time is too short to premeditation