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Criminal Law
Wayne State University Law School
Dillof, Anthony M.

Criminal Law 2003
Professor Dillof

I.          Principles of Punishment – Government acts to disadvantage
A.      Theory – protect society at large, discourage criminal conduct
1.   Utilitarianism – maximize net happiness; greatest good for greatest number; norm reinforcement;
a.      General deterrence – convince the general community to forego criminal conduct
b.      Specific (or individual deterrence) – deter future misconduct; incapacitation, intimidation, and rehabilitation
c.      costs/benefits to society – economic, loss of a family member, individual suffering, worsening individual
2.   Retributivism – theory of desert; punished to the extent of the crime, humans possess free will;
a.            hurt him back, retribution
b.            Positive – punish as much as deserved
c.            Negative – punish no more than deserved
d.            punish intrinsic value
e.            Desert = Responsibility * Harm
3.      Mixed Theory
a.      punish to extent of max social utility (Utilitarianism)
b.            but no more than deserved (negative Retributivism)
c.      alternatively – punish the lesser of the amounts recommended by both theories
B.      Applications
1.      Dudley & Stevens Queen’s Bench 1884 p.47;
·        interested in consequent of punishment, not judge act;
·        deter them or others from cannibalism
2.      Michigan is a Common Law state; Michigan Penal Code – murder p. 219
3.      Most jurisdictions are mixed, leaning in one direction or another
C. The Function of the Prosecutor – seek justice, not merely to convict
Anatomy of an Offense : 1. Actus Reus, 2. Mens Rea, 3. Attendant Circumstances; MPC § 1.13 (9); Conduct (includes mens rea), result and attendant circumstances
II.         Actus Reus (Bad Act) – physical or external part of the crime; conduct and harm defined by offense; crimes of result (prevent outcome), conduct (prevent dangerous behavior)
A.     Voluntary Act – act of will, what is left over after subtracting fact of act;
1.      CL voluntary – act
2.      MPC voluntary – act with intent, §§ 2.01, 2.02, 2.05, 1.04(5)
3.      Martin p.112 1944 CL; public drunkenness
·        Lack of voluntary in statute, construe in light of criminal goals and principles;
·        Voluntary is common criminal presumption
·        Lack of voluntary b/c conduct against his will (cops)
·        Retributivist would object to punishment
·        Utilitarian would see the cost outweighing the benefit
4.      Utter p.114 1971 CL; court reads voluntary into statute
·        Act – exercise of will,
·        Act technically means a voluntary act
·        MPC § 2.01(2) what voluntary acts are not
·        p. 117 N3 coerced voluntary = involunt

              v.      Creates risk of (further?) harm
5.      MPC § 2.01(3)(b) duty to perform imposed law
6.      Why should criminal law treat acts and omissions w/ same costs/benefits different? Utilitarian approach – no difference, convenience
i.      Omissions ambiguous
ii.      Line drawing problems
iii.      Intervention makes matters worse
iv.      Requiring acts limits individual freedom
v.      Coordination – not all law involved with morality, i.e. driving
7.      Distinguishing Acts from Omissions
i.      Barber Cal. 1983 p.124 doctors removed life support, murder charge CL
·        Omission – returning person to the status quo
Act – moving person below the status quo