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

Crim Law (A. Dillof)
Fall 2013

·         Basic principle is to maximize the net happiness of society.
·         Utilitarians believe that the pain inflicted by punishment is justifiable if, but only if, it is expected to result in a reduction of the pain of crimes that otherwise would occur.
·         General deterrence–he is punished and work to convince the general community to forgo criminal conduct in the future
·         Individual deterrence–d’s punishment is meant to deter D’s future conduct by intimidation
·         Rehabilitation –use the correctional system to reform the wrongdoer

Criticisms of Utilitarianism
·         To the utilitarian, the punished individual is an instrument for the improvement of society
o   People are used as a means to an end
·         Rehabilitation
o   If family, school, etc.  have failed why should we think that prisons, psychiatric care, or any other involuntary imposed treatment will succeed?
o   Could justify ” cures”  that violate the offenders personhood (e.g.  Lobotomy)

·          Retributivists believe punishment is justified when it’s deserved
·         Wrongdoer should be punished whether or not I will result in a reduction of crime
·         It is morally fitting  that an offender should suffer in proportion to his desert or culpable wrongdoing
·         Assaultive retribution–since criminal has harmed society, society harms criminal back
·         Protective retribution– punishment as a means of securing a moral balance in society
·         Victim vindication–punishment reaffirms the victims worth as a human being in the face of criminals challenge

Criticisms of Retributivism
·         Punishment does no good,  it can be senseless and even cruel
·         Societies goal should be to reduce overall human suffering
·         Punishment is founded on emotions rather than on reason

Specific intent  v. general intent
·          specific intent – The crime requires proof that the actors conscious object, or purpose, is to cause the social harm set out in the definition of the offense
·         General intent – The actor can be convicted upon proof of anyone us or state of mind, such as when he causes the harm knowingly, recklessly, or negligently.

Actus Reus
General principles
·         The Actus Reus of an offense consists of:
1.      Voluntary act
2.      That causes
3.      Social harm
·         “Act”
o   An act is simply a bodily movement, a muscular contraction
o   An act involves physical, although not necessarily visible, behavior
·         “voluntary”
o   A movement of the body which follows our volition
o   Holmes – a willed contraction of a muscle
o   Voluntary act involves the use of the human mind; an involuntary act involves the use of the human brain, without the aid of the mind
·         “time-framing”
o   The court must focus on the relevant conduct
§  Conduct that actually and proximately caused the social harm of the offense charged
Voluntary act – Model Penal Code § 2.01
·         Act – bodily movement, whether voluntary or involuntary
·         Involuntary acts –  reflexes, convulsions, conduct during unconsciousness, sleep, or due to hypnosis
o   Any conduct that is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual
·         Omissions
o   The person is not guilty of any offense unless his conduct includes a voluntary act or omission to perform an act of which is physically capable and obligated to do.

Mens Rea
·         Mens rea – A guilty mind, A general immorality of motive, A general notion of moral blameworthiness
·         Transferred intent
o   Justified on grounds of necessity and proportionality
§   Necessity–the bad aimer should not avoid conviction for the intent to kill homicide simply because he killed the wrong person
§  Proportionality– one who intends to cause a particular harm to one individual and instead causes precisely the same social harm to another person is as culpable as if the defendant had accomplished what he had initially intended
·         Mistakes
o   Mistake of fact –mistake of fact can negate the men’s Rea in the culpability meaning of the term
§  Defendant may not possess the specific state of mind required a definition of the crime
§  Specific intent crimes–A mistake of fact is exculpatory if it negates the particular element of mens rea in

y element of the crime) can be raised as a defense.
ú  Will not negate reckless if mistake was reckless or negligent if mistake was negligent
Common-law Mens Rea
·         Intentionally
o   It is the actors desire to cause social harm
o   A person acts with knowledge that the social harm is virtually certain to occur as a result of his conduct
o   Knowingly–Awareness of a fact, are correctly believing that a fact exist
o   Willfully–intentional violation of a known legal duty, A purpose to disobey the law
o   Willful blindness–the actors aware of a high probability of the existence of the fact in question and;
§  Takes deliberate action to avoid confirming the fact
§  Purposely fails to investigate the order in order to avoid confirmation of the fact
§  See state v. nations (underaged dancer case) [court did not use willful blindness to find guilt] – This was an MPC case, but diverged from MPC
·         Negligence
o   Negligence in general–the deviation from the standard of care that  reasonable person would have observed in the actors position
o   Factors determining reasonableness:
§  The gravity of the harm
§  Probability of harm occurring
§  The burden to the defendant of desisting from the risky conduct
o   Criminal negligence is conduct that represents a gross deviation from the standard of reasonable care
o   Recklessness–the person acts recklessly if he takes a very substantial and unjustifiable risk
§  Actor must be aware of the risks
o   Malice–person acts with malice if he intentionally or recklessly causes the social harm prohibited by the offense
§  D must be aware of the risk and consciously disregard it in order to find malice
§  If D does not have foresight–should have been aware of the risk but was not–he acted in a criminally negligent manner but that falls outside of definition of malice