Crim Law Word Outline

Elements of a Crime
Elements of a Crime (Actus Reus, Mens Rea, Causation, and Concurrence)
Actus Reus (elements)
Voluntary act (Or an omission)
The actor must have control over the voluntary act; i.e., reflexes, things done in
a trance or sleep, NOT voluntary.
There is not general duty to act, so omissions are rare. (Requires a person to be
capable of acting in addition)
Special relationship (i.e., Parent to child)
Legal duty (i.e., Police officer to citizen)
Creation of risk (i.e., A person pushes another that cannot swim into a
pool, he created the risk of drowning)
Statutory authority (i.e., Caregiver to patient)
Voluntary assumption of care
Causes something to happen
Social harm follows
Mens Rea
Mental state/criminal intent
Common Law i.
Intent at common law is equated with either "conscious object" or
"knowledge to a virtual certainty."
General intent crimes - Intend to perform the prohibited act,
but not to cause any specific result.
Specific intent crimes - Intend to perform the prohibited act
combined with intent to bring about the prohibited result.
Purposely - A person acts purposely with respect to a material
element of an offense when:
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; AND
If the element involve the attendant circumstances, he is
aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes
or hopes that they exist.
Knowingly - A person acts knowingly with respect to a material
element of an offense when:
If the element involves the nature of his conduct or the
attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of
that nature or that such circumstances exist; AND
If the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware
that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a
NOTE: Deliberate ignorance = knowledge (MPC ss 2.02(7))
A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of
an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and
unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result
from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and a
degree that it disregard involves a gross deviation from the
standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe
in the actor's situation.
A person acts negligently with respect to a material element
of an offense when he should be aware of a substantial and
unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result
from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and
degree that the actor's failure to perceive it, considering the
nature and purpose of his conduct and the circumstances
known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of
care that a reasonable person would observe in the actors
2. Strict Liability
a. Imposes criminal liability with no proof of fault
3. Transferred Intent
a. Intent can transfer when a defendant intends to harm one person, but
actually harms another.
c. Causation (Social Harm)
i. Actual cause
1. The result would not have occurred without the defendant's conduct.
a. But for test
a. The result would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s
b. Substantial factor test
a. (1) Multiple forces combine to cause a result, (2) any one of
these forces alone would have been sufficient to cause that
result, and (3) it is impossible to tell which force caused what
portion of the result.
a. Each force is treated as an actual cause, so long as it
was a substantial factor in bringing about the result.
ii. Proximate cause
1. The result is s natural, probable, and foreseeable consequence of the
defendant's actions.
d. Concurrence
i. Must have mens rea at the time of the actus reus
e. Mistake
i. Mistake of fact
1. A mistake of fact will absolve a defendant of criminal liability if it negates the
required mens rea.
a. Most jurisdictions require the mistake to be reasonable
b. Others allow even unreasonable mistakes to absolve liability for specific
intent crimes.
c. The MPC allows both reasonable and unreasonable mistakes
2. Mistake Supporting Liability for another crime
a. The MPC holds that a defendant whose mistake negates the mens rea of
one crime can still be charged with another crime, if the conduct would
have been a crime had the facts been as the defendant supposed. The
defendant cannot be convicted of a more serious crime than the
defendant would have committed had the facts been as he supposed.
Mistake of Law
A mistake of law occurs if the defendant mistakenly believes that his conduct is
not a crime.
Reliance on a statute or court decision that was eventually overturned.
Reliance on Official Interpretations of the law by government agency or
official responsible for administering the law.
Law not reasonably available (Law has not been generally published or
made reasonably available to the defendant).
i. Good Samaritan Statutes
1. Some states such as Hawaii and Vermont require citizens to assist if they can do
so safely.
2. Some states (only 5) have enacted duty to rescue laws.
ii. Diminished Capacity
1. Intoxication
a. Voluntary Intoxication
Can negate specific-intent crimes
The MPC approach allows the defense in any case in which
voluntary intoxication negates any element of the crime.
1. Limitations
1. Not applicable to crimes requiring recklessness, such as
2. Not applicable if the defendant became intoxicated to
commit the crime (liquid courage)
3. Not applicable if voluntary intoxication is an element of
the crime (ex. DUI)
b. Involuntary Intoxication
Legal Effect
1. A defense if it puts the defendant in the same state of mind
required for an insanity defense. Ex. Taking drugs that put a
defendant in a state where he did not know what he was
doing was wrong.
Insanity Defense Generally
0. Insanity is an affirmative and complete defense to ca crime. A defendant will not
be held criminally liable if she was insane at the time of the act.
. Tests for Insanity
M’Naghten Rule
1. A defendant will be found not guilty by reason of
insanity if, as a result of mental disease or defect, (1)
the defendant did not know the nature or quality of the
criminal act, or (2) if he did know the nature and quality
of the act, he did not know that what he was doing was
Irresistible-Impulse Test
1. A defendant will be found not guilty by reason of
insanity if, as a result of mental disease or defect, the
defendant could not restrain herself from performing
the criminal act.
MPC Test
1. A defendant will be found not guilty by reason of
insanity if, as a result of mental disease or defect, the
defendant lacks substantial capacity to (1) appreciate
the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct or (2)
conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.
Common Law Homicide
1. Homicide
a. An unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought.
i. Unlawful killing
1. No legal privilege, such as a defense or privilege.
ii. Another human being
1. Life now starts as a fetus and ends at the cessation of brain
iii. Malice Aforethought
1. Intent to kill (Express Malice)
2. Intent to cause serious bodily harm (Implied Malice)
3. Reckless indifference to the value of human life (Implied Malice)
4. Felony murder rule (Implied Malice)
a. A killing that occurs during the commission or attempted
commission of a felony can be charged to the defendant.
i. Must be an inherently dangerous felony
1. Felonies that, by their nature, pose a high
risk of injury or death
a. Robbery, burglary, rape, arson, and
2. Some jurisdictions apply the felony-murder
rule to any underlying felonies.
3. Some jurisdictions apply the felony-murder
rule to a felony that is not inherently
dangerous but is committed in a dangerous
ii. The “Res Gestae” Requirement
1. The felony and the homicide must be close in
time and distance.
2. Demands a causal connection between the
felony and the homicide. Courts, however, are
not in agreement regarding how much of a
causal connection is required.
iii. The Merger Doctrine
1. The underlying felony must be distinct from the
killing itself.
a. If a felony requires bodily harm or
imminent threat of bodily harm, it
cannot support felony-murder liability.
2. Manslaughter
a. Voluntary Manslaughter
i. (1) The intentional killing of another human being (2) in the heat of a
sudden and intense emotional state, generated by (3) an adequate
provocation, if (4) the killing occurs before a reasonable cooling-off
1. Adequate Provocation
a. Defendant was actually provoked
b. Defendant did not have time to cool off
c. A reasonable person would have been provoked
d. A reasonable person would not have had time to cool off
b. Involuntary Manslaughter
i. Criminal-Negligence Manslaughter
1. Actually and proximately causing another’s death without malice
aforethought but under circumstances manifesting a grossly
unreasonable disregard of a foreseeable and unreasonable
probability of death.
a. Culpability is akin to recklessness
b. Defendant must know of an unreasonable and high risk of
death and consciously disregard it.
i. NOTE: Some jurisdictions include Negligent
Homicide, which is the same as criminal-negligence
manslaughter except for the fact that the
defendant merely “should be aware” of an
unreasonable risk but isn’t.
ii. Unlawful-Act manslaughter
1. A death resulting from the defendant’s commission of an unlawful
act that is not necessarily inherently dangerous or a felony.
MPC Homicide
1. Criminal Homicide
a. Causing another’s death purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or through criminal
i. Murder
1. Criminal homicide committed purposefully, knowingly, OR
recklessly AND under circumstances manifesting extreme
indifference to the value of human life.
2. Recklessness and Extreme indifference is presumed if the death
occurred in the course of committing, attempting, or fleeing after
the enumerated crimes of robbery, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or
felonious escape.
ii. Manslaughter
1. Criminal homicide committed (1) recklessly AND without
circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of
human life OR (2) under the influence of extreme mental or
emotional disturbance, provided there is a reasonable
explanation for the disturbance.
a. The reasonableness of the explanation in (2) is evaluated
from the perspective of a reasonable person in the actor’s
position under the circumstances the actor believes to
iii. Negligent Homicide
1. (1) The defendant fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable
risk that someone will die due to her conduct, and (2) the failure
is a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable
person would observe in the same situation.
Modern Statutes Homicide
1. First Degree Murder
a. The unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought that is
carried out with premeditation and deliberation
i. Premeditation and Deliberation
1. Planning activity
2. Motive
3. Manner of Killing
2. Second Degree Murder
a. The unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought.
i. No Premeditation and Deliberation
3. Manslaughter
a. Heat of passion, imperfect self-defense, diminished capacity, etc.
Property Crimes
a. (1) The trespassory (2) taking and (3) carrying away of (4) the personal property
(5) of another, (6) with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the
1. Misdemeanor Larceny
a. Less than $500
2. Felony Larceny
a. More than $500
b. Larceny by Trick
1. Gains possession (not title) of property by knowing deceit or trick satisfies
the trespassory taking requirement of larceny.
a. (1) Fraudulent (2) conversion of (3) property (4) of another (5) by a person who
lawfully possesses the property.
1. Usually associated with the defendant’s abuse of a position of trust
False Pretenses
a. (1) Obtaining title to (2) property of another (3) through a knowing
misrepresentation of a past or present material fact with (4) intent to defraud.
1. This is essentially Larceny by Trick, BUT the defendant requires title rather
than possession.
a. Robbery is generally defined as larceny committed with two additional elements:
The property is taken (1) from the person or presence of another and (2) by
force or intimidation.
5. Burglary
a. Common Law
1. (1) The unlawful breaking and entering of (2) another’s dwelling (3) at night and (4)
with intent to commit a felony in the dwelling.
b. Modern Definitions
1. (1) The unlawful entry (2) of a building or other structure, (3) with intent to commit
any crime in the structure.
Inchoate Offenses
I. Inchoate Offenses
1. Offenses that are in anticipation or preparation for a target offense.
A. Attempt
1. (1) The defendant, with the specific intent to commit a target offense, (2)
engages in some act in furtherance of the target offense that (3) does not result
in its completion.
a. Mens Rea
i. Specific intent to commit the target offense.
b. Actus Reus
i. The defendant undertakes some act in furtherance of the target
offense (more than mere preparation).
One. The substantial-Step Approach
i. Used by the majority of jurisdictions AND the MPC
i. Actus reus is satisfied if the defendant
performed an act or omission constituting a
substantial step toward committing the
target offense.
i. Strongly corroborates the
defendant’s criminal intent.
Two. The Proximity Approach
Three. The Probable-Desistance Approach
2. Defenses to Attempt
a. Impossibility
A. Factual Impossibility
i. The defendant has a criminal objective, but some fact or
circumstance unknown to the defendant prevents the
defendant from completing the target offense.
B. Legal Impossibility
i. The completed act would not have been a crime, even if
circumstances were as the defendant believed them to be.
b. Abandonment (Renunciation)
A. The defendant argues that he should not be held liable for
attempt because he turned away from his criminal scheme before
completing the target offense.
i. Must be voluntary and complete,
i. Minority of jurisdictions recognize abandonment
ii. MPC recognizes abandonment as a defense
B. Solicitation
1. A defendant (1) invites, requests, commands, encourages, or counsels (2)
another person (3) to commit a felony or a misdemeanor involving a breach of
the peace, (4) with the specific intent that the person solicited carry out of the
a. Solicitor is an accomplice if the person completes the crime.
C. Conspiracy
1. (1) An agreement (2) between two or more people (3) to commit a crime,
combined with, in some jurisdictions, at least one overt act in furtherance of that
a. Unlike attempt, Conspiracy does NOT merge. Can be charged with
conspiracy AND the crime behind it.
At common law, a conspiracy is bilateral, which requires at least
two people with a genuine and sincere agreement to commit the
Some modern statutes allow a unilateral approach, which allows a
single guilty party to be charged with conspiracy for conspiring
with a feigning party, such as an undercover officer.
Wharton’s Rule
a. Bars conviction for conspiracy to commit a crime that by its definition ca be
committed only by two or more culpable participants.
i. Ex: Bigamy, dueling, and prostitution
Common Law and MPC
a. Conspiracy is complete once the parties reach an agreement to commit a crime
b. MPC and most states require at least one party complete an overt act in
furtherance of the conspiracy.
Types of Conspiracies
a. Chain Conspiracies
i. 1 single conspiracy, with each conspirator acting as a link
b. Wheel conspiracies
i. A single conspirator, the hub, links multiple co-conspirators, spokes. Each
conspiracy is separate.
Ending a Conspiracy
a. Abandonment
i. All conspirators abandon their conspiratorial goal.
1. Presumed if no member has performed any overt act in
furtherance of it within the Statute of Limitations
b. Completion
i. Conspirators have achieved the goals of the conspiracy.
c. Government intervention
i. Generally, does not terminate a conspiracy
d. Withdrawal
i. A party must perform some affirmative act sufficient to place a
reasonable person on notice of the party’s withdrawal.
1. Must be provided to all other members of the conspiracy
2. MPC also provides for withdrawal if the party notifies law
enforcement of the conspiracy and the party’s own participation.
ii. Cuts off the withdrawing party’s liability for subsequent crimes.
e. Renunciation
i. MPC
1. Complete defense if the defendant thwarts the conspiracy’s
success, provided the circumstances indicate complete, voluntary
renunciation of unlawful purpose.
Parties to a Crime
I. A party who commits a crime is called the principal. A party who aids or assists the principal
in some way is an accomplice, sometimes called an accessory.
B. The Common-Law Approach
C. Modern Accomplice Liability
D. Post-Crime Assistance
Defenses: Justification and Excuse
I. Defenses: Justification and Excuse
A. Under a justification defense, the defendant admits committing the underlying act but
asserts that for some reason the act was so socially or morally desirable that it does not
fall within the ambit of conduct the criminal law is meant to deter and punish.
0. Self-Defense
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