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

Criminal Law
Professor Chanenson
Fall 2011
 
I.                   General
A.      Theories:
1) Utilitarian (Goals 1-3) – Pragmatic ideas that use punishment’s to benefit society on the premise that certain punishments can effectively deter the behavior.  The severity of the punishment must be appropriate to curb the conduct and/or help the offender understand why conduct is harmful.  (Forward looking)
2) Retributive (Goal #4) – Punishes the offender because the offense deserves a response.  Society has a responsibility to hold offenders accountable regardless if it will have a deterrence effect.  (Backwards looking)
B.      Goals of Criminal Justice:  Punishment will reduce crime and provide justice, and better society by upholding moral wrongs.
1.       Deterrence (U):
1.       Specific – to deter a certain individual from committing a crime.  Can be done by Incapacitation or probation but may not always be effective.  Belief that people will avoid criminal behavior because of the fear of sanctions.
2.       General – to deter others from criminal activity.  This assumes that others consider the consequences of their behavior when choosing to do something they know might result in criminal sanctions.  Problem is that most crimes are not planned.
2.       Incapacitation (U): the criminal is so dangerous that he needs to be segregated from society.  Aimed to protect public from known dangers that cannot be made safe.  Highly effective for preventing offenders from repeating crimes but not a long term solution for most offenders.
3.       Rehabilitation (U): system will “cure” the person through punishment and reform the offender.  Offender needs to be changed to be permitted back into society.  Imposes measures for purpose of changing the offenders mental outlook so that the offender will be “reformed”
4.       Retribution (R): theory that a person should be punished for the sake of “justice” merely because they committed the crime, regardless of the prior 3 utilitarian views, even if punishment would not help them change or deter their behavior.  “An eye for an eye.”
C.      Purpose of criminalizing:  typically criminal laws are made to prevent harmful behavior and punishments are established to reform or separate.
1) Mill – to define crimes that will prevent harm to people other than the actor and it is not legitimate for legislature to prohibit “self-directed harm.”
2) Devlin – Paramount issue in defining crimes is the underlying public morality which needs to be protected from violation of acts, even ones that cause no measurable harm, such as immoral or repulsive acts (public nudity)
3) Hart – argues that even if a person is “disgusted” by conduct, that repulsion is insufficient to justify criminalizing it and harm to others is a requisite.
D.      Criminal Stigma:  society places a stamp of criminal for their misconduct which remains long after their punishment is complete.  This is why criminal punishment is only imposed on deserving people when all elements of crime are satisfied.  Place a high burden of proof so that we ensure only the guilty are punished and no innocent man should ever suffer.  Better 10 guilty go free before one is jailed.  Stigma carried by criminals after they serve time is sometimes unrecoverable.  Losing a civil case goes away but criminal sanctions follow for job interview and even residential choices.
E.       Interpreting Statutes – Courts job to interpret how a statute should be read and they do not have authority to change its meaning or make new laws.
1)       Plain black letter meaning
2)       Historical policy that it meant to set forward
3)       How the statute could be construed to apply to modern needs
 
II.                Elements
A.      Conduct: Actus Reus – the wrongful physical act of the crime.  Voluntary conduct or omission to act when there is a legal duty that is connected to the harmful result.  Involuntary acts are not criminal unless the person is aware of his involuntary behavior.  (Seizures are typically involuntary unless the offender is aware he’s prone to seizures and voluntarily chooses to drive).
1.       Voluntary act (if a person acts affirmatively they are liable for their conduct)
a.       State v. Sowry – held that D who had drugs in pocket while being taken to jail not guilty of “knowingly conveying” drugs into jail because his entry into jail was not volitional since he was brought there because of his arrest.  (Dissent argued that D’s voluntary act was lying to the police with knowledge he was carrying drugs).
b.       People v. Decina – held a man who suffered from epilepsy but continued to drive can be guilty of homicide from accident while he was unconscious because he made a voluntary decision to drive.  However if the D was not aware that he was prone to epilepsy then it will not be a voluntary action because the D was not aware of the risk to be able to disregard it.
2.       Omission to act when there is a legal duty to act – Typically no duty to act, except when:
a.       Good Samaritan statutes – you have a legal duty to help those in need if you are able.  Imposes a duty on someone who knows a crime is being committed and that a victim is exposed to bodily harm to summon police or rescue unless compliance would expose them to danger or if another is providing assistance.  The person only has a duty if they are physically able to help.  (Must know how to swim to be able to rescue a person who is drowning)
b.       Contracts – doctors to patients or teachers to students.  The person who has the duty must know in advance before he may be held responsible for breaching that duty.  (liability based on omission to act requires knowledge of need for action – the parent must know that the child was their son)
c.        Special relationships – parents or marriage.
Cases:
·         State v. Martinez – held that mom and bf guilty of manslaughter for not providing medical care to infant (mom charged by statute and bf had duty bc of relationship)
·         State v. Miranda – held bf liable because he established a “familial relationship” with the abused child.  The injuries to the abused were noticeable to anyone and thus the D should have been aware and thus had a duty to care for the child.  (a parent has a duty to a child regardless of who causes the injuries)
3.       Possession:  actual possession or constructive (power to control an object)
a.       U.S. v. Zandi – brothers guilty of constructive possession when they exercised power to control drugs that were shipped into U.S.  D’s had reasonable knowledge of drugs and was able to control where the package was going even though they probably couldn’t do any harm to anyone else.  Example of the laws ability to construe the law to reach a guilty person.
b.       U.S. v. Martorano – D arranged to get drugs from undercover agent who put them in van and handed D keys to van.  Possession of van keys enough b/c the D controlled the means for transporting the drugs.
4.       Status Crimes – are not enforceable b/c it does not punish conduct, but a persons involuntary disposition, thus unconstitutional.
a.       Robinson v. California – statute of criminalizing drug addiction found unconstitutional b/c it is cruel and unusual to make illness a crime.  Cannot punish for an illness b/c an illness could be contracted involuntarily so statute goes too far.  (unfair to punish AIDS victims)  May have been okay to charge with public intoxication.
b.       Powel v. Texas – upheld public drunkenness even for an alcoholic because the act of drinking was volitional and the crime was not punishing the D’s status but his voluntary act.
B.      Circumstances (Attendant Circumstances): The specific situation surrounding that the statute describes to be a crime.  Some statute requirements can be very narrow to the circumstances of

applies b/c policy for protecting the public is greater than determining culpability.
–          U.S. v. Xcitement Video –
–          U.S. v. Balint –
6.       Simultaneity:  Requires that the mens rea and actus reus occur at the same time.  The acts must not be separated from the mental state.  A person must form an idea and then commit the act not long after.  The AR must be attributable to the MR or the casual relationship is lacking
MPC MR Standards:
A.      Purposely – conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature of cause such result.  A person is aware of the circumstances or believes they exist.  There is a specific intent to act with the purpose of causing a probably result.
B.      Knowingly – a person is aware that his conduct will practically result in a particular result.  Actor knows his conduct is harmful.
C.      Recklessly – a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk which is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct.  Must be greater than ordinary civil recklessness.
D.      Negligence – a person should be aware of a risk that will have a particular result but is not aware and a reasonable person in the same situation would observe the risk.  If there is no MR in statute and it’s not a SL crime then any MR standard above negligence will suffice.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
III.             Burdens on Parties
A.      Burden of Production – The P must produce a showing of evidence to support its issue to be able to charge the D with the crime.  The D must produce defenses to each element of a crime and then persuade, usually by meeting a low standard (preponderance of the evidence).
B.      Burden of Persuasion – Once produced, a party must persuade the jury to a certain degree about each element.  Criminal law imposes a high standard to ensure only the absolutely guilty are convicted.
1.       Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – constitutional requirement for criminal law where every element must be proven to be practically certain, otherwise a reasonable doubt exists.  Since impact of conviction is so harsh the fact-finder must be absolutely certain.  The prosecution must persuade the fact-finder BRD that every element exists.  Defense will attack weakest element.
1.       Circumstantial evidence:  Adds up to make it more likely that the D is guilty.  A conclusion must be warranted by the combined and cumulative force of the incriminating evidence.  Taking bits of inferences drawn together by the evidence and when combined show almost certain probability the D’s guilt.  Must exclude all other reasonable hypothesis.
2.       Eyewitness testimony – highly valued as the best direct evidence b/c typically undisputed but criticized because:
o    witness accounts are likely to be inaccurate due to time elapsed or stress
o    people retain less over time
o    subsequent info has effect on peoples memory
o    people have “selective perception”
o    largest single factor in wrongful convictions and so parties typically bring in “experts” to testify about eyewitness testimony credibility and becomes a battle.