Criminal Law Outline

Criminal Law
A. Physical Act – Actus Reus
1. Must be voluntary act
a. Martin v State – not a voluntary act if defendant acted under compulsion of another
2. MPC offers examples of situations when actions are involuntary:
a. Reflex/compulsion
b. Bodily movement during unconsciousness/sleep
c. Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion
d. Bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of
the actor, either conscious or habitual.
3. Possession as a voluntary act
a. People v Gory – Person must have knowledge of possession in order to be found
guilty of it
b. Status vs Possession
1. Robinson v State of California – A status (being an addict) cannot be
criminalized, only an action
4. Omissions
a. When common law and statutory crimes are defined in terms of conduct producing
a specific result, a person may be criminally liable when his omission to act produces
that result, by only if:
1. He has, under the circumstances, a legal duty to act, and
2. He can physically perform the act
b. Jones v United States – Omission to act conviction requires proof of a legal duty to
act; moral duty is not enough
c. Four situations where duty of care exists:
1. Where a statute imposes a duty to care for another
2. Where one stands in a certain status relationship to another
a. State v Williquette – mother has a special relationship to children to
protect them from harm
3. Where one has assumed a contractual duty to care for another
4. Where one has voluntarily assumed the care of another and so secluded the
helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid
B. Mental State – Mens Rea
1. Concurrence requirement
a. Culpability must exist at the time of offense
2. Regina v Faulkner – A defendant’s general wickedness does not suffice to establish the
requisite criminal intent for all charged consequences of defendant’s actions
3. MPC
a. Purposefully – conscious object to engage in act or cause a certain result
b. Knowingly – as to nature of conduct; aware of the nature of conduct or that certain
circumstances exist; as to result: knows that conduct will be necessarily or very
likely cause result
c. Recklessly – conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that
circumstances exist or a prohibited result will follow, and this disregard is a gross
deviation from a “reasonable person” standard of care
d. Negligently – failure to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that
circumstances exist or a prohibited result will follow, and this disregard is a gross
deviation from a “reasonable person” standard of care
State v Jackowski – It is a reversible error for trial court to instruct jury that “conscious
object” and “practically certain: are the same thing
a. The first is purposefully – a higher standard than “knowingly” and therefore the jury
convicted the defendant using a lower standard
State v Ducker – The trial court must instruct the jury on the mens rea required for each
element of the offense
a. Trial court error was in defendant’s favor if court instructs on mens rea as an
element but not for conduct, then the court has increased the burden on the
prosecution, and therefore there is no reversible error
Strict liability
a. No mens rea for an element of the offense
b. Public welfare offenses
1. Typically involve harm to a large number of people and have minor
penalties for violations
2. No moral stigma (malum prohibitum)
3. Ex: environmental laws, food and drug relations
c. Non-public welfare offenses
1. Severe penalties
2. Moral stigma (malum in se)
3. Ex: stat rape
General Intent
a. Mens rea + actus reus
Specific Intent
a. Mens rea + actus reus + extra special motive
b. Extra special: intend future act, special motive/purpose, aware of attendant
c. Ex: larceny and other theft crimes; burglary; first degree murder
Drunken or Intoxicated
a. Voluntary intoxication
1. The person knowingly ingests a substance with at least a general knowledge
that the substance causes intoxication
2. People v Atkins – defense of voluntary intoxication is only applicable to
specific intent crimes because it negates the ability to have a coherent
special motive or purpose (Common law)
3. MPC – voluntary intoxication defense available for purpose and knowledge,
but not for recklessness
b. Involuntary intoxication
1. Tennessee v Hatcher – sufficient proof is needed that the intoxication was
severe enough to sufficiently impair the actor to the point of elimination the
possibility of mens rea
a. Involuntary intoxication negates the element of mens rea in TN
2. Ingesting a substance without knowing what the substance is or what its
likely effect will be, or ingesting a substance without free will
10. Mistake of Fact
a. May (a) counter government proof and (b) negate mens rea element
b. Could provide a defense to criminal liability
c. Hopson v Texas – mistake of fact instruction is only necessary if the jury needs to
consider it as a defense, not to recast an already present mens rea requirement as a
defensive issue
d. Iowa v Freeman – mistake of fact defense to a crime of criminal intent only where
the mistake precludes the existence of the mental state necessary to commit the
e. North Carolina v Breathette – mistake of fact defense is not available for strict
liability offenses
f. Common law defenses
1. Specific intent – honest mistake
2. General intent – honest and reasonable mistake
3. Not available for strict liability
g. MPC defense if it negates the required mens rea of purpose, knowledge, or
11. Mistake of Law
a. Ignorance of the law is no excuse – general rule
1. United States v Scarmazzo
b. Exceptions: when knowledge of the law is a required element of the crime
c. Reasonable reliance on an authoritative interpretation by a government officer
whose duty includes clarifying the law
1. Hawaii v DeCastro – reliance on the advice of an individual in an
authoritative position not an affirmative defense unless that figure has
authority over the law (911 operators do not apply)
d. Kipp v Delaware – mistake of law applies when the state misleads the defendant to
believe that he is acting legally and the defendant acts in good faith reliant upon
that information
1. Kipp didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to possess a gun as a felon because his
paperwork didn’t mark that down (it was left blank where it should have
been checked that he couldn’t have weapons)
1. Murder
a. MPC doesn’t divide murder into degrees like CL
b. 1st Degree
i. State v Ramirez – Premeditation is an actual act, not a moment in time
1. Reflection + action; statute states “proof of actual reflection is not
ii. State v Davis – Deliberation necessary for premeditation need only be
iii. Deliberation v Premeditation
1. Deliberation requires coolness of purpose or reflection
2. Premeditation involves a prior intention or design on the part of the
defendant to kill
3. Same types of proof are often used to prove both concepts
2. Voluntary Manslaughter
a. Intentional killing but in the heat of passion
b. Accepted categories of provocation
i. Striking of accused
ii. Angry words followed by assault
iii. Sight of relative being beaten
iv. Sight of adultery
c. Reasonable provocation is provocation that would have been likely to produce in an
ordinary person such a state of passion, anger, fear, fright, or nervous excitement as
would eclipse his capacity for reflection or restraint
d. Massachusetts v Hinds – Provocation must be both subjective (actually provoked) and
objective (reasonable person would have been provoked) and must come from the
e. Suprenant v State – “sudden heat” requires a sudden impulse to kill caused by an
extreme emotional response that inhibits an individual’s reason as a result of something
more than “mere words”
i. Sudden heat is characterized as anger, rage, resentment, or terror sufficient to
obscure the reason of an ordinary person, preventing deliberation and
premeditation, excluding malice, and rendering a person incapable of cool
3. 2nd Degree
a. Killing with malice aforethought but not with premeditation and deliberation
b. Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm
c. Extreme recklessness – depraved heart murder
d. State v Burley – conviction of extreme indifference to human life must be sufficiently
and reasonably supported by evidence regarding the circumstances of the killing
4. Felony Murder
a. Any person who commits any felony and all accomplices in that felony are guilty of
murder if a death occurs during the commission or attempted commission of the felony.
b. Type of 1st degree murder
c. Applies whether the defendant kills a victim intentionally, recklessly, negligently, or
accidentally or unforeseeably.
d. State v Blair – no separate mens rea required for felony murder – implied malice from
the commission of the requisite felony
e. People v Portillo – a homicide committed during the perpetration of a felony if the
killing and the other felony are part of one continuous transaction
i. Flight is included in the transaction; felony continues until perpetrator has
reached a place of temporary safety.
f. Felony murder is not applicable if the underlying felony is an integral part of and
included in the fact of the homicide
g. Not felony murder if a bystander or the police do the killing
5. Involuntary Manslaughter
a. Killing caused by reckless or negligent conduct that was insufficiently blameworthy to
constitute murder but more culpable than ordinary civil negligence
b. Noakes v Virginia – a defendant’s conduct constitutes criminal negligence for the
reasons of involuntary manslaughter when defendant commits reckless and unlawful
conduct in utter disregard to human life
i. Some unlawful, but not felonious act or the improper performance of a lawful
ii. Improper performance of a lawful act = lawful act must have been done in a
way so grossly negligent and culpable as to indicate an indifference to
consequences or an absence of decent regard for human life
1. Gross means aggravated or increased negligence
2. Does not rise to the level of malice
c. State v Powell – an individual who intentionally, willfully, or wantonly violated a statute
has the requisite culpable mens rea for involuntary manslaughter
d. People v McCoy – to prove gross negligence, state must prove:
i. Knowledge that a situation requires ordinary care & diligence to avoid injury
ii. Ability to avoid that injury using care, diligence & the means at hand
iii. Omission to use such care & diligence to avert the threatened danger when a
reasonable person would foresee the likelihood of injury
A. Conduct that is designed to culminate in the commission of a substantive offense, but has failed
in the discrete case to do so or has not yet achieved its culmination because there is something
the actor or another must still do
B. Attempt
a. State has an interest in preventing a planned crime from being carried out
b. Elements:
i. Specific intent; and
ii. Overt act – a substantial step (MPC) is the direction of the commission of the
c. Mens rea of attempt. The actor:
i. Must intentionally commit the acts that constitute the actus reus of an attempt
(acts that bring her into the proximity to commission of a substantive offense);
ii. She must perform these acts with the specific intention of committing the target
iii. Specific-intent crime, even if the target offense is a general-intent crime
iv. State v Maestas – mens rea for the attempted crime is the same as the mens rea
needed for the completed crime
v. People v Gibson – Intent necessary for an attempted crime can be inferred from
the circumstances. Direct proof is not necessary
d. Actus reus of attempt
i. Complete attempt: all conduct for offense has taken place but crime has not
occurred because some circumstance or result is absent (i.e. attempt murder
but miss target)
ii. Incomplete attempt: actor has performed some conduct in direction of offense,
but must still perform additional conduct for offense to occur
iii. Common law
1. Physical proximity
2. Dangerous proximity
3. Indispensable element test
4. Probable desistence
5. Abnormal step
6. Res ipsa loquitor
iv. MPC
1. Substantial step
2. Must be “strongly corroborative of the actor’s criminal purpose”
v. Commonwealth v Peaslee – preparation itself is not attempt in most cases but
can amount to attempt depending on the degree. Must have present intent to
accomplish crime without much delay and have had this intent in the location at
which the crime took place
vi. People v Rizzo – An individual cannot be convicted of an attempt crime if their
actions do not reach close enough to the actual commission of the crime
1. Dangerous proximity test
vii. United States v Jackson – an individual’s conduct constitutes an attempted
crime if the individual acts with the same culpability necessary for the
completed crime and takes substantial steps in the furtherance of that crime
1. Substantial steps test
e. Defenses
i. Abandonment
1. CL – no defense
2. For jurisdictions that now have the defense via statute, it applies only if
the defendant voluntarily and completely renounces their criminal
3. State v Workman- Once a substantial step has been taken and the crime
of attempt has been accomplished, no defense of abandonment
ii. Impossibility
1. Factual – a person’s intended end constitutes a crime, but unable to
consummate the crime because of an attendant circumstance unknown
to her or beyond her control
a. No defense in CL or MPC
2. Legal – the law does not prescribe the goal that the defendant sought to
achieve – based on principle of legality
a. Defense still available in CL and MPC
3. Hybrid legal – factual mistake about legal status of defendant’s conduct
a. State v Guffey – hybrid legal impossibility = defense
b. Most states have abolished this defense
State v Curtis – overturned Guffey
c. No defense in CL or MPC currently
d. People v Dlugash – if an individual would have completed the
criminal act if not for a mistake of fact, an impossibility present
in the attendant circumstances does not constitute a defense
Represents the trend of abolishing hybrid legal
impossibility as a defense to attempt liability
Look at the facts as the defendant perceives them
Demonstrates trend of abolishing hybrid legal
impossibility as a defense to attempt liability
C. Complicity
a. Elements:
i. An agreement;
ii. An intent to agree;
iii. An intent to achieve the objective of the agreement;
iv. An overt act (most jurisdictions)
b. Liability – each conspirator is liable for all crimes of other conspirators if foreseeable and
in furtherance of the conspiracy
c. Accomplice Liability
i. 4 parties to a crime
1. Principals in the 1st degree who actually perpetrated the offense –
person who committed the crime
2. Principals in the 2nd degree who were actually or constructively present
at the scene of the crime and aided or abetted its commission – present
and assisted
3. Accessories before the fact who aided or abetted the crime, but were
not present at its commission – assisted, but not present
4. Accessories after the fact that rendered assistance after the crime was
complete – aware of crime and assisted to help escape
a. No longer an accomplice – usually a lesser charge of aiding and
abetting a fugitive
ii. If principal is not held culpable, the conspirator can still be
1. 18 U.S.C. s 2
d. Actus reus involves both aiding &/or encouraging
i. aiding – physical help
ii. abetting – psychological help
e. Mere presence does not make someone an accomplice
i. Lane v Texas – conviction cannot be based solely on uncorroborated accomplice
1. Mere presence is not sufficient for accomplice liability; there must be an
affirmative act or omission
ii. New Hampshire v Merritt – Crime of accomplice liability necessitates some
active participation by the accomplice and mere presence is insufficient
1. Presence may constitute aiding & abetting when it is shown to
encourage the perpetrator or facilitate the perpetrator’s unlawful deed
Mens rea of accomplice liability: intent to promote or facilitate a crime
i. Intent to assist a principal actor in committing the target act
ii. The intent that the principal actually commits the act
1. Most jurisdictions, this intent can be implied from a person’s actions
iii. Hawaii v Soares – accessorial liability is not strict liability – mens rea must be
iv. New York v Kaplan – Some jurisdictions require that the defendant intended to
aid the principal, but this intent is not the same as that required as an element
of the substantial offense.
v. Pennsylvania v Potts – 2 prong test for determining accomplice liability
1. Whether accused accomplice possessed requisite criminal intent
2. Whether accused’s actions rise to level of criminal activity, such that the
accused has promoted or facilitated the commission of the crime
A. Common law – an agreement between 2 or more persons to commit, by concerted action, an
unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means
a. Bilateral approach
b. Does not allow conspiracy
B. MPC focuses on the act of a single individual who is or believes that he or she is agreeing with
another person to commit a criminal act
a. Unilateral approach
b. Allows conspiracy agreement if agree with an undercover agent or anyone who isn’t
actually planning on going through with the crime
C. State v Huff – factual impossibility is not a defense to conspiracy – regardless of unilateral or
D. Mens rea in conspiracy
a. The intent to agree with another person to commit a criminal act
b. The intent to commit the criminal act itself
E. Palmer v Colorado – conspiracy to commit reckless manslaughter is not a recognizable offense
a. An individual cannot have a specific intent to achieve an unintentional result
F. United States v Blankenship – Knowledge of conspiracy is not sufficient for participation in the
a. One must show an intent to join the conspiracy
G. Conspiracy vs Complicity
a. Conspiracy is its own crime whereas complicity isn’t
b. Complicity is a theory of liability where someone else’s actions are imputed to you
H. Actus reus – agreement
a. Until the agreement is formed, there is no group identity and once the group identity
exists, actors become more compelled by group dynamics to pursue the criminal
b. State v Rosado – evidence of agreement to join the conspiracy can be implied from the
c. Some jurisdictions need an overt act
i. State v Garcia – overt act doesn’t have to be committed by the defendant to
convict the defendant of conspiracy
ii. People v Mammaril – overt act can be done by anyone in the conspiracy;
accomplice testimony must be corroborated
1. Need not prove that the actual crime is the object of the conspiracy was
I. Culpability of Coconspirators
a. Each member of the conspiracy is criminally liable for any crime committed by coconspirators
b. Pinkerton v United States – each member of the conspiracy is criminally liable for any
crime committed by co-conspirators, if the crime was committed:
i. in furtherance of the conspiracy
ii. within scope of an unlawful project; and
iii. were reasonably foreseeable
DEFENSES - Justification
A. Self-defense
a. CL – a non-aggressor is justified in using force upon another id if he reasonably believes
such force is necessary to protect himself from imminent use of unlawful force by
another person
b. With respect for deadly force, only justified if reasonably believe that its use is
necessary to prevent imminent and unlawful use of deadly force by the aggressor
c. Necessity
i. Brown v United States – failure to retreat is a circumstance to be considered
with all others in order to determine whether the defendant went further than
was justified in doing
ii. Must retreat but need not retreat at home (common law)
d. Imminence
i. Betchel v State – establishment of battered woman syndrome is a defense
through edited instruction
ii. Most courts now say that battered spouse has no duty to retreat from the
batterer’s castle to get away from the abuse
e. Proportionality
i. Use nondeadly force to repel a non-deadly attack
ii. Use nondeadly or deadly force to repel a deadly attack
iii. Deadly force is force likely or reasonably expected to cause death
f. Reasonable belief
i. Reasonable person in the same situation would have had the same belief
B. Defense of dwelling
a. Defense of property that is not a dwelling would not justify use of deadly force even if a
person reasonably believes that there is a threat to trespass or theft
b. Home is a person’s castle and his sanctuary from external attack
c. State v Anderson – an occupant, for purposes of self-defense and the castle doctrine, is
anyone who is legally inside the dwelling
i. Make My Day laws
A. General defenses applicable to all offenses and available even though the person satisfies the
offense’s elements
B. Duress
a. Arises when an individual is faced with a threat of death or serious bodily injury and
chooses to commit a crime rather than suffer the threatened consequences
b. Must have a reasonable belief that the threat is serious and there must be no
reasonable means of escape
c. United States v Contento-Pachon – elements of duress:
i. Immediate threat of death or serious injury
ii. Well-grounded fear the threat will be carried out
iii. No reasonable opportunity to escape
C. Insanity
a. Those who are substantially unable to restrain their conduct are, by definition,
undeterrable and their “punishment” is no example to others – juries don’t like this
b. M’Naghten test
i. At time of committing the act, the accused party was laboring under such a
defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know:
1. Nature and quality of act (cognitive incapacity)
2. If he did know nature and quality, that he didn’t know it was wrong
(moral incapacity)
ii. Some jurisdictions interpreted M’Naghten to apply to insane delusions only
when the imaginary facts, if real, would excuse the act
c. Irresistible impulse test (vocational impulse)
i. If a defendant knew the difference between right and wrong, and knew his act
was wrong, but acted under an “irresistible impulse” – cannot be convicted
d. Clark v Arizona – states are allowed to choose which insanity defense they prefer, as
well as what evidence is needed
e. United States v Freeman – MPC 4.01
i. A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct,
as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacks substantial capacity, either to
appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the
requirement of law
ii. Sufficient capacity
A. Sentencing models
a. Discretionary – judges given discretion within a broad range of sentences
b. Determinate – confines the judge’s discretion
B. Capital Punishment
a. Death penalty statutes contains 4 parts:
i. The definition of the type of homicide for which the death penalty is authorized
ii. A list of aggravating circumstances that, if present, indicate the death penalty
may be imposed
iii. A list of mitigating circumstances that, if present, would justify not imposing the
death penalty
iv. A set of unique procedures applied only in capital cases
b. 36 States and federal government have the death penalty
c. Gregg v Georgia established constitutionality of capital punishment
d. California v Brown – An instruction prohibiting juries from basing their sentencing
decision on factors not presented at trial and irrelevant to the issues at the trial does
not violate the Constitution
i. 2 requisites to a valid death sentence
1. Sentencers may not be given unbridled discretion in determining the
fates of those charged with capital offenses
2. Capital defendant must be allowed to introduce any relevant mitigating
evidence regarding his “character or record and any circumstances of
the offense
e. Proportionality
i. Graham v Florida – life without parole for a nonhomicide juvenile defendant is a
violation of the 8th amendment
ii. Juveniles have lessened culpability due to a lack of maturity and more
susceptibility to negative influences and outside pressures
iii. Miller v Alabama – SCOTUS subsequently ruled that the Miller decision that life
without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional
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