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Criminal Law
Wayne State University Law School
Ortman, William

Criminal Law – Ortman Winter 2017

Why Should We Punish?

Those who commit crimes DESERVE to be punished
General Principles

Actus Reus – The conduct and harmful result of the conduct
“Guilty Act”
Physical or external part of the crime
Most commonly includes both the conduct and the harmful result
MPC § 1.13(5) “conduct” means an action or omission and its accompanying state of mind, or where relevant, a series of acts and omissions
People should be punished for involuntary acts – Martin V. State
MPC § 2.01(1) -A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable.”

Mens Rea- Internal mindset / intent
“Guilty Mind”
Mental State (ex. w/ intent to …)
MR elements: “intentionally___”,  “w/ intent to commit felony therein,” “w/ malice aforethought”

Result Crimes 
·Crimes punished because of their result
Such as murder the result of a human being killed is the crime
Conduct Crimes
·Crimes punished because of their conduct
Such as DUI no harm has to occur just the conduct of driving under the influence
Attendant Circumstance
a fact the must be in existence @ time of the actor’s conduct, or @ time of particular result (ex. for rape, AC are “woman not his wife: & “without consent”)
Circumstances that exist independent of what actor does.
Ex. age, at night, drunk…; “in an intoxicated condition”; not conduct element b/c does not prohibit person from becoming intoxicated
If its not MR or AR then its an attendant circumstance; state of things going on in which the conduct occurs
Such elements constitute a part of the actus reus of every offense*

General Rule: A person is not guilty of a crime for failing to act, even if such failure permits harm to occur to another, and even if the person could act at no risk to personal safety.
Sources of Duty to Act
(1) Statutory Duty: expressly requires a person to perform. Failure by definition constitutes a crime (tax returns, provide food/shelter to minor kids)® “crime of omission”
(2) Duty by status: a person has a duty to protect another with whom he has a special relationship- based on dependency or interdependency (children, spouses, master-servant, State v. Williams)
(3) Duty by contract: a person may have an express contract to come to the aid or another or such contract may be implied in law (lifeguard, babysitter, caregiver)
(4) Prevent others from aiding: E.g. when you tell everyone to stop helping someone drowning b/c you say you will help, but then you don’t help
(5) Duty by Risk Creation: one who creates a risk of harm to another must thereafter act to prevent ensuing harm (driver hits pedestrian)
NOTE  Acts can be characterized as omissions sometimes
Broad meaning “guilty Mind”
Narrow Meaning (Modern) – specific mental state required for act
Intent and Knowledge (Common Law)
Common Law includes intent and knowledge as the same

e of fact as a defense to the felony
MPC 2.04 Mistake of Fact
NO distinction between general and specific intent
Thus no requirement that the mistake be reasonable
NOTE: sometimes the mistake is the mesn rea element “negligence” in such cases under the MPC one cannot use mistake of fact
LEGAL WRONG IN MPC – still has legal wrong doctrine with one difference you only get charged with the crime you think you were committing so in the alcohol example you would only be charged with the misdemeanor
Not normally a defense under common law
Entrapment by estoppel – where a gov. official states a law and it is followed relying on their statements and the law is later to be found invalid
Constitutional exceptions (narrow limit) – lack of knowledge a passive law (not an act) exist
Due process requires notice of the passive law
No mens rea requirement for at least one of the actus rea elements
Public welfare crimes are usually strict liability i.e. speeding
Justice Jacksons Op: Courts at common law should presume mens rea into the statute if silent and look to see if there is countervailing reasons to overcome the presumption (this analysis is not for public welfare crimes)