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Criminal Law
Wayne State University Law School
Henning, Peter J.

I. Proving the Crime
·         Must prove every element/fact necessary to the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
·         Types of proof = direct, circumstantial, inferences/common sense
o       All elements of an offense may be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by circumstantial evidence & reasonable inferences therefrom
o       On appeal, burden of proof shifts to D
o       P not constitutionally required to bear the burden of proof for affirmative defenses
·         Cases – Solmonson (208), Jackson
II. Punishment – “moral condemnation of the community”
A. Goals
1. To reflect societies condemnation of D’s conduct
2. To deter other member’s of society from engaging in similar conduct
3. To protect society from future crime
B. Theories
1. Deterrence – people will not commit crimes for fear of suffering the same punishment a current D has suffered (general deterrence) and D will avoid future crimes because he fears additional punishment (specific deterrence)
·         Mental state matters because it helps to determine how much punishment is required for deterrence
·         Utilitarian
2. Rehabilitation – society has obligation to punish an individual in a way that makes him a better citizen in the future
3. Isolation – variation on deterrence – focus on isolating wrongdoers from law-abiding citizens
·         Also referred to as incapacitation
4. Education – punishing wrongdoers educates rest of society in what rules are considered most sacred & important, what values it holds, what procedures it sees fair, how it values individuals & groups
·         Not the same as educating the individual, which is rehabilitation
5. Retribution – look to past, goal is to ensure individual gets what he deserves, which turns on wrongfulness of act, degree of harm caused & mental state @ the time of offense
·         Not concerned w/ deterrence
·         Justification = must pay debt to society (societal K)
·         Communicative Retributivism – variant, deprivations help define fundamental equal worth of all human beings, when someone denies another’s right, treating that person as worth less, victim’s anger demands retribution
o       Message is that society values victim = to others, looks @ injuries to victims & society as a whole, and groups that may suffer special harm
Sentencing Regimes
C. Cases
·         The Queen v Dudley and Stephens – men stranded @ sea w/ 17 yr. old boy, D’s killed the boy & the men ate him, were sentenced to death (boy was incapable of resistance)
·         State v Jensen (9)– after husband left for another woman, wife (nurse) gave the woman a lethal injection, sentenced to life imprisonment, appealed for excessive punishment, court said not an abuse of discretion, offense was so egregious that it demanded an exceptionally severe measure of retribution & deterrence, regardless of D’s potential for rehabilitation – – confinement reasonable if appears necessary to accomplish primary objective of protecting society & to achieve related goals of deterrence, rehabilitation or retribution
III. Interpreting Criminal Statutes
A. What is a crime? 
·         Look at Statute, Look at common-law precedents, look at MPC
·         Presumption in favor of mens rea should apply to each of the statutory elements that criminalize otherwise innocent conduct
B. Tools – 1st understanding the words, then determining whether construed narrowly or broadly
·         Plain meaning (looks like, sounds like, dictionary)
·         Legislative intent
·         Common law analogues
·         Canons of Statutory Construction:
o       If 2 interpretations, 1 creating liability & the other not, chose the one that will be easier on D (Rule of lenity)
o       Ejusdem Generis (of the same kind) /Expressio Unius (to include one thing excludes another)
C. Categories
·         Malum in se – wrongful in itself
·         Malum prohibitum – wrongful through legislative prohibition (intent requirement low)
D. Cases
·         People v Lopez (58) – Does felonious taking element of carjacking require asportation? Court said yes – was modeled after robbery statute, presumption that legislature intended same meaning of felonious taking – if not defined by statute/history, assume common law meaning unless contrary intent clearly appears
·         State v Donaldson (61) – Man broke into car, engaged entire electrical system except the engine, court said “possession or control” element was met because he [1]secured dominion over the object or [2]used it in a manner beyond his authority, court looked @ Websters, said objective standard (only under circumstances that would cause reasonable person to fear safety combined w/ definitions didn’t leave too much discretion to police officers
·         State v Porelle (69) – man accused of stalking ex-wife, argued “follow another from place to place” and “no legitimate purpose” were unconstitutionally vague – Question is whether statute [1]fails to provide person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct it prohibits or [2]authorize/encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement
·         Morales v Chicago – loitering statute that punishes remaining in one place “with no apparent purpose” unconstitutionally vague
IV. Elements
A. “Actus Reus” – The Criminal Act – external act involved in a crime, elements =
·         1. Voluntary act/conduct (act of free will, doesn’t include reflex, convulsion, during sleep/unconscious, or other not a product of actor’s effo

t, 2.02 provides material element is established if person acts purposely, knowingly or recklessly
a. Purposely – if the element involves the nature of his conduct or a result thereof, it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result
·         Purposely w respect to attendant circumstances if aware of the existence of such circumstances or believes/hopes they exist
b. Knowingly – if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result
·         W/ attendant circumstances and conduct elements – if he is aware his conduct is of that nature or that such attendant circumstances exist
·         This is where willful blindness comes in – if person is aware of high probability of attendant circumstance’s existence (unless actually believes it doesn’t exist)
General Intents
c. Recklessly – consciously disregards a substantial & unjustifiable risk that the element exists or will result from his conduct
·         Substantial & unjustifiable if disregard is gross deviation from law-abiding person’s standard of conduct
d. Negligently – should be aware of a substantial & unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct
·         “reasonable person” substituted for law-abiding person
2. Common Law – add definitions from supplement
a. Specific intent – conscious purpose to commit an illegal act – sometimes knowledge can be sufficient proof of this intent
·         Specific if definition expressly:
o       1. Includes intent/purpose to do some future act or achieve some consequence beyond actus reus, OR
o       2. Provides that the actor must be aware of statutory attendant circumstance
·         Intentionally causes harm if 1. It is conscious desire, or 2. Acts w/ knowledge the harm is virtually certain to occur as a result of his conduct
·         Some require proof of a specific motive
b. General intent – blameworthy state of mind, person intends to engage in actus reus of the offense – “mental element not specific in nature, the only issue is whether the D intended to do the proscribed act” (People v Bitting 106)
i. Knowledge