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

INTRO TO CRIMINAL LAW

I.                     CRIME, defined: an act or omission prohibited by law for the protection of the public [MPC §1.04]. Incurs a moral condemnation of the community. The goal of a criminal trial is to punish someone.
II.                   IS THERE A CRIME?
A.      Is there a statute prohibiting (or requiring) the conduct? (Legislature)
B.      What are the elements of the offense? (Legislature and Court)
C.      Is there sufficient evidence to prove the offense? (Prosecutor and Jury)
D.      What is the punishment for the crime? (Legislature and Court)
III.                  STANDARD OF REVIEW: In considering a D’s challenge to a guilty verdict, the appellate court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, w/ all inferences drawn from the facts proven at trial in favor of the guilty verdict.
IV.               SOURCES OF COMMON LAW
A.      Common Law
1.       Felonies: punishable by death and included murder, rape, larceny, mayhem and arson
2.       Misdemeanors
B.      Statutes
1.       Legislature is pre-eminent lawmaking body in the realm of criminal law
2.       All federal crimes are based on statute, and many states have eliminated the authority of state courts to create common law crimes. (Michigan has not and assisted suicide is a common law crime).
C.      Model Penal Code
1.       ALI drafted code containing provisions relating to the general principles or criminal responsibility and definitions of specific offenses
2.       Followed in most states, however it’s not the law
V.                 CLASSIFICATION OF CRIMES
A.      Felonies
1.       A crime punishable by either imprisonment (state prison) exceeding one year or in some states, death
2.       Includes murder, mayhem, manslaughter, rape, arson, burglary, larceny and robbery. (sodomy and prison excape).
B.      Misdemeanors
1.       Crimes punishable by a fine or imprisonment (jail) of one year or less
C.      Statutory Felonies
1.       MPC §1.04(2): D may be sentenced to death or imprisonment for a certain period of more than one year in a state prison
VI.               BURDEN OF PROOF: Prosecutor must prove every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. [MPC §1.12(1)].
A.      Burden of Production: “Burden of going forward with evidence.”
1.       Prosecution
a.       beyond a reasonable doubt
b.       must introduce sufficient evidence, may be circumstantial, to prove case against D
2.       Defense
a.       Has the burden pertaining to any affirmative defenses D wishes to raise
3.       The Winship Doctrine (In re Winship)
a.       The due process clause of the 5th Amendment that protects the accused against conviction except upon proof established by the prosecution, beyond a reasonable doubt or ‘every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged.
b.       Allows for the presumption of innocence until proven guilty
4.       In order to secure a criminal conviction, the prosecution must present evidence establishing D’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and if it fails to do so, the D is entitled to acquittal w/o having to offer evidence in his defense. U.S. v Jackson [199] B.      Burden of Persuasion: A party’s duty to convince the fact finder to view facts in a way that favors their party
VII.              THEORIES OF PUNISHMENT
A.      Deterrence: “prevents” other people from acting improperly or criminally for fear of punishment. Operates best when line is clear as to what is a crime. [MPC §1.02(a)] B.      Rehabilitation: reform of the individual w/ removal of criminal label [MPC §1.02(b)].
C.      Retribution: a wrong must be punished, “pay” for your crime
D.      Compensation: operates on the theory that V is paid for crime against them. Potential problems include people of low economic means commit crimes and

common law meaning was intended. People v Lopez [58].
E.      Canons of Statutory Interpretation
1.       Rule of Lenity [65] a.       A statute is interpreted most favorably toward D
b.       Narrow interpretation to ensure that D is not convicted of a crime of which D was not aware
2.       Ejusdem Generis [63]: When general language follows specific terms in a statute, this rule limits the general language to the specific terms
3.       Expressio Unius [64]: “the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another”
4.       Extraterritorial Application of Domestic Laws [65]: US laws do not apply to conduct that occurs in other countries. Small v US [65] X.                 STATUTORY DEFENSES
A.      Vagueness
1.       Due Process Clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments prohibits enforcement of statutes defining crimes if those statutes are impermissibly vague
2.       Statutes are required to be clear. When a statute is not clear then the criteria for evaluating vagueness of a statute is when a statute:
a.       fails to provide people of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct it prohibits. However, does not consider whether D knew what statute meant.
b.       Authorizes or even encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, i.e. infringement on constitutional rights. People v Porelle [68]; Morales v Chicago [71].
A criminal statute is not vague if it has been interpreted narrowly by the courts and /or prior court opinions have construed the statute. Clarity [72].