Law School - Criminal Law Notes

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Criminal Law Final Outline Burden of Proof -Evidence that has a prejudicial effect on the outcome of a case must be excluded from the court. Its probative value is outweighed by prejudicial effect. Evidence about the D’s general character is not admissible unless he made it an issue. People v. Zackowitz -In criminal cases, court must apply the reasonable doubt standard rather than preponderance of evidence. Reasonable doubt means that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or else he should not be found guilty. In Re Winship -This standard is meant to reduce risk of convicting innocent persons. -Preponderance of evidence = greater risk of convicting the innocent. Rule: If the state can prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant may be required to prove an affirmative defense. Rule: The punishment imposed on defendant must be proportional to the crime he committed. U.S. v. Then. Legality 8 Elements of legality: 1. Due process includes making the law public so all people have fair warning. 2. Law can’t contradict itself; must be internally consistent. 3. Criminal law must be stable or consistent over a long time (stare decisis). 4. Law should be understandable to common reasonable people. 5. Judges’ decisions in court must actually apply the law. 6. Law must be promulgated (published) and made known. 7. Law must impose achievable limits on people’s conduct—enforceability. 8. Laws can’t be imposed retroactively (no ex post facto laws). -A person can be prosecuted for committing a common law crime even if it’s not prohibited by a state statute. Commonwealth v. Mochan Rule of Lenity: If there’s ambiguity in a statute such that it could be interpreted for either the state or the D (or if there’s no fair warning), the court should rule for the defendant; benefit of doubt. U.S. v. Dauray Voluntary Act Requirement Actus Reus: The voluntary physical act of committing the offense. This is an essential element that must be proved along with mens rea. -Voluntary action is threshold requirement for liability in criminal act. -Criminal liability must be based on a voluntary act or omission from committing an act which was physically possible. Martin v. State. 1 Rule: Where it’s not self-caused, unconsciousness is a complete defense to a charge of criminal homicide. People v. Newton. Omission Definition: A failure to act on one’s legal duty. Person must be aware of the legal duty to do something, and voluntarily chosen not to do it. -Omission is only unlawful where there was a legal duty to act, and defendant did not. No general duty towards world. 5 sources of duty: statute; special relationships (like relative); contracted relationships; voluntarily caring for someone who is secluded; & placing someone in a perilous situation. -If defendant caused the risk or is related to the victim, he has legal duty to help her. Rule: If defendant takes another person into secluded area, he has a duty of care towards that person. Defendant is responsible when others are not present. -In some circumstances the omission of a duty owed by one person to another can make one chargeable for manslaughter, if the omission results in the death of the one being cared for. Mens Rea Definition: Criminal intent to commit the offense. Necessary element of most common law crimes. General intent: Desire to commit a certain offense without considering the result. Specific Intent: Desire to bring about a certain harmful result. Four levels (MPC 2.02): purpose, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence. -Purpose means having a conscious intention to perform the act. -Knowledge means having awareness of probability for harm from the action. -Recklessness involves conscious risk creation. Creating risk to others without taking care to prevent the possibility of harm. -Negligence means person should be aware of harm he caused but is not. Malice: actual intention to inflict harm, or acting recklessly as to whether or not harm would occur. (If it’s foreseeable that harm might be done through the act, but actor still does it). Strict Liability: Liability that does not depend on actual intent to harm or negligence. If defendant commits wrongful act, he is automatically guilty. U.S. v. Rodriguez. -Applies to statutory rape as well. Mistake Mistake of Fact: Defendant makes error regarding relevant fact and lacked criminal intent. 2 -It’s a complete defense if it negates the mens rea required as element of the crime. Honest mistake is also this type of error. -Stat. Rape: Mistake of fact regarding age of person one is having sex with is irrelevant; strict liability. MPC 2.04: Mistake of fact is a defense if it negates knowledge, recklessness, or negligence required for an offense. Mistake of Law: Mistake of law is a defense if person thought he was breaking the law but actually did not. You can’t break the law in the abstract, must break an actual law. -Generally, ignorance of the law is no defense for committing crime. Rule: A good faith mistaken belief as to the meaning of the law is no defense to a violation of the statute. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. People v. Marrero. MPC 2.04: Exemptions to rule: if there was reasonable reliance on a statute later invalidated, reasonable reliance on court decision, reasonable reliance on public official for statute, or if statute requires D to know that activity is illegal. Homicide Murder: Killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought means intent to kill. For murder one of the four states of mind must be proved: intent to kill; intent to inflict serious physical harm; reckless indifference to human life (depraved heart); or intent to commit felony. Premeditation: Conscious planning and consideration that takes place before the homicide. Premeditation takes time to exist; must be proof of intention to kill. This is required for proper murder charge. -Distinguishes first degree from second degree murder. Provocation: Incitement that would cause reasonable person to lose self-control and act without premeditation. Elements: murder; sufficient to arouse passion in reasonable person; action in heat of passion; lack of opportunity to cool down. -Provocation can mitigate murder to voluntary manslaughter but is NOT a defense. -Words alone cannot be adequate provocation. -Explanation for provocation must be reasonable and objective. Manslaughter: Unlawful killing of another human without malice aforethought. Elements: Killing; acted in the heat of passion; reckless disregard for life; gross negligence; extreme emotional distress. -Recklessness and negligence apply to involuntary manslaughter. 3 Felony Murder Definition: Death caused in furtherance and in the course of a felony is felony murder. Does not require the mens rea of murder, just intent to commit felony. -Malice is implied from intent to commit felony. -Felony being committed must be inherently dangerous to life. Defendant must be found guilty of the underlying felony. The death must be reasonably foreseeable based on the felony. Merger rule: if the elements of one crime are exactly the same as a second crime (but 2nd crime has more elements), the first crime is merged into the second one. They would be prosecuted as one crime instead of two. -If 2 different crimes by one actor partly overlap but not completely, they are not merged Causation Efficient cause: Last event in a chain of events before the result. It depends on how close the action was in proximity to the result. Proximate cause is legally enough to result in liability. Directly produces the result, without which the result wouldn’t have occurred. Result must be reasonably foreseeable. -If an action directly caused the death and the eventual harm can be foreseen as related to that action, the actor is liable. The defendant’s conduct need not be the only cause of the victim’s death. People v. Arzon. Intervening cause is an action by an independent free-willed party. Such a cause breaks the chain of causation so that D isn’t liable. Natural events are not intervening causes. -Reasonably foreseeable risks like failure of medical care is not intervening cause. Rule: If the defendant inflicts a severe wound that mentally destabilizes the victim and leads to the victim’s suicide, the defendant is responsible for murder. Victim is considered not responsible for suicide b/c of influence of defendant Stephenson v. State. Rule: The dangerous conduct of two persons acting together can function as the efficient cause of a third person’s death, and each of their acts is regarded as a proximate cause of the death. State v. McFadden Attempt Definition: An overt act done with the intent to commit a crime but which falls short of completing the crime. Person must intend a criminal outcome (specific intent). -State does not need to prove result element. MPC section 5.01: To constitute an attempted crime, an act must be a substantial step toward accomplishing the harmful result and strongly confirm the defendant’s criminal purpose. MPC section 5.01: Person is guilty of attempt if he purposely takes action which would constitute crime if circumstances were as he believed them to be. 4 -Under MPC, abandonment can provide an affirmative defense after the defendant already intends the offense. -Common law provides no defense of abandonment. Common law— Actus reus of attempt is function of: proximity, equivocality, and likelihood of completing the crime. Proximity test: Only acts which are so close to the completion of the crime that the crime would have been committed if not for interference can be considered attempts. Equivocality: How clearly do defendant’s actions demonstrate his intent? D’s chain of conduct must clearly show his intent to commit crime; cannot be equivocal. -Likelihood of success means that the attempt must have a reasonable chance of succeeding. Solicitation Rule: Defendant is guilty of attempt when he seriously elicits someone to commit a crime, even if the crime is not ultimately carried out. U.S. v. Church. Legal impossibility: Person intends a criminal act which would not be a crime even if completed, because it’s not illegal. Factual impossibility: Person intends an act which would be a crime if completed, but factors unknown to that person prevent his act from constituting a crime. (The act would be a crime if the situation were as the actor believed it to be). U.S. v. Berrigan. -**Legal impossibility bars an attempt charge. Factual impossibility does not (D still has mens rea). Group Criminality Accomplice: Person who encourages another or helps him to commit crime. Principal: Person who actually carries out the crime. MPC section 2.06: “ (1) A person is guilty of an offense if it is committed by his own conduct or by the conduct of another person for which he is legally accountable, or both.” -(2a) A person is legally accountable when he causes an innocent or irresponsible person to act in a culpable way sufficient to commit a crime. - (2c) Person is accountable if he is an accomplice of another person who is committing crime. Aiding and abetting crimes: Elements of accomplice: D must have specific intent for a completed crime and be present during crime to encourage the principal whether or not they are caught. Accessory before fact: specific intent, before the crime, actual assistance/encouragement, crime was completed, whether or not determinative. Accessory after fact: Knowing that crime was committed, specific intent to assist P in evading detection, provided protection/aid/encouragement, whether or not determinative. Rule: Defendants attacking each other are complicit in death of a third person b/c of depraved indifference. 5 Rule: A person cannot be guilty of aiding/abetting another party if the principal does not have any real intent to commit the crime. The principal must intentionally commit a crime in order for the accomplice to be complicit. State v. Hayes Rule: An accomplice’s liability is limited to consequences that could occur “in the ordinary course of things” i.e. within a predictable range of outcomes. Accomplice is not responsible if the principal does some action completely unrelated to accomplice’s intent. Roy v. United States. Conspiracy Definition: two or more persons reach agreement to perform unlawful act to achieve unlawful goal (or lawful goal by unlawful means). -Inchoate crime: conspiracy is punishable whether or not the crime is completed. -Actus reus of conspiracy is the agreement to commit crime. -Conspiracy is punished same or one grade lower than completed crime. -Defendant can be prosecuted for conspiracy as well as the actual crime. -D can be held liable for overt acts of co-conspirators—vicarious liability. Pinkerton Rule: A conspiracy is continuing until the crime is completed or a conspirator takes action to withdraw from the conspiracy. Each defendant is liable for the substantive acts of his co-conspirator (vicarious liability). Rule: A conspiracy may be formed even without communication or express agreement between parties if they formed an unspoken agreement to cooperate. Interstate Circuit v. U.S. Rule: Intent of a supplier can be shown by direct evidence he intends to participate, or through inference he wished to participate based on a special interest in activity or “aggravated nature of crime itself”. People v. Lauria. Scope of conspiracy: Parties may be engaged in a single conspiracy if each actor knows that its own part’s success depends upon cooperation of the whole. U.S. v. Bruno. MPC 5.03 (2): If a conspirator knows that his co-conspirator agreed to commit same crime with a third person, he is guilty of conspiring with that third person as well. Common Law Defenses Justification Defenses: Person’s conduct was the appropriate or right thing to do either in general or in the circumstances he found himself in. Self Defense: unlawful and immediate threat of deadly force, actual or apparent, defender’s belief of imminent death or harm, and necessity of defense to save oneself. These beliefs must also be objectively reasonable and honestly felt. -Elements also apply to battered spouses; there must be reasonable fear of harm. D can bring in expert testimony. 6 -There must have been no alternative to using violence to defend oneself. -One who instigates the aggression cannot later claim self-defense if he kills victim. Loses right to S-D. MPC 3.04: Person can use deadly force in self-defense if he believes that it’s necessary to protect against unlawful deadly force. If person can safely retreat, he has duty to retreat. -MPC emphasizes D’s state of mind more. Common law emphasizes what’s objectively reasonable. Rule: One must use non-deadly force in self-defense unless threatened with imminent death or great bodily harm. One may stand his ground. State v. Abbott. This also applies to police officers. Defense of Property: A person may NOT use deadly force against a criminal if the crime does not create a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm. Non-deadly force may be applied. People v. Ceballos. Law Enforcement: Force CANNOT be used by police unless officer is threatened with serious injury or imminent death. Tennessee v. Garner. Necessity: Justification that allows a person to commit an offense if he believed the act was necessary to avoid an injury worse than violating the law. -Threat comes from natural event. -Can reduce murder to manslaughter, but not reduce manslaughter. Necessity Elements: Situation was not made by defendant, immediate threat of harm, action taken was reasonably likely to prevent harm, harm caused is less than harm averted, no lawful alternative. -Indirect civil disobedience is never justified by necessity defense. MPC 3.02: Unlawful conduct necessary to avoid harm is justifiable if that harm is greater than the harm which the law is meant to prevent (lesser of two evils). Excuse Defenses: Person’s conduct was wrong, but he’s not blameworthy. Duress Elements: May claim duress when D commits crime (besides murder) out of reasonable fear of immediate harm imposed by another’s threat of unlawful force. Threat must overcome a reasonably firm person in D’s situation. -No duress if person recklessly placed himself in danger. -Duress threat comes from another free-willed actor. -Duress can mitigate murder charge to manslaughter. This is a perfect defense for everything except murder. MPC section 2.09: (1) Duress is an affirmative defense when the actor committed an offense because he was coerced by the use or threat of unlawful force against himself or another person, which would also have overcome a reasonably firm person. (2) This does not apply if the actor recklessly or negligently put himself in a position where he might be under duress. Intoxication 7 MPC S. 2.08: (1) “Intoxication of the actor is not a defense unless it negatives an element of the offense.” MPC 2.08 (4): Involuntary intoxication is treated similar to insanity; complete defense to any crime. -It’s assumed that you’re reckless when you get drunk. -Intoxication is affirmative defense. Rule: Voluntary intoxication is valid excuse only when it negates specific intent. Crime can be reduced to recklessness. It’s not defense for general intent crimes. -This defense does not apply to crimes requiring malice or recklessness. Insanity M’Naughten rule: to claim insanity, at the time of the commission of the act the party accused must have been under such defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature of his act or the wrongfulness of act. -Volitional limitation is no excuse for insanity defense (United States v. Lyons). -This is affirmative defense; it’s D’s responsibility to raise issue and prove insanity based on evidence. -Insanity defense is a full defense, not just mitigation. -Insanity is about culpability of defendant. MPC 4.01: Person is not responsible for a crime if he could not understand the wrongfulness of his action or obey the law because of a mental disease or defect. “Mental disease” does not include personality disorders based on repeated criminal conduct. 8