1L Criminal Law Outline

Rule: Criminal jurisdiction is determined by two factors, where the crime took place and where the effects of the crime happened.

Generally, criminal jurisdiction is determined by two factors:

  1. Where the crime took place;
  2. Where the effects of the crime happened.

Criminal law is derived from three (3) sources:

  1. Common Law
  • State Statutory Law/State Penal Code
    • Legislator
  • Model Penal Code

Three (3) principles limit the imposition of punishment:

  1. Legality
  2. Culpability
  3. Proportionality
  1. Why do we punish? Two leading theories of justification….
  1. Utilitarianism
  1. Jeremy Bentham – goal to maximize social welfare, i.e. overall happiness of society.
  1. Punish only as much as necessary to maximize societal happiness. Punishment should only be used to deter. It is an instrument of deterrence. Increases social welfare by incapacitating criminals, because they cannot recidivate if incarcerated or dead.
    1. General deterrence – Punishing one sends a message to society.
      1. Specific deterrence – Deterring the particular person to avoid commission of the same crime again or a different crime.
      1. Social contract concept – We give up a little of our rights to maximize the balance. Balancing individual rights with the power of the state.
        1. Plato’s perfect concept, “The Ideal.”
        1. Calculated – If value of pain > value of pleasure, then act will not be committed is the theory.
  • Retributivism
    • Emmanuel Kant – not a scientific theory, but a moral theory. We should only punish when it is justified by morality.
  1. Punishment should be morally and principally administered.
    1. Categorical imperative – Do unto others as you would have them do. If society could be bound by the approach, then it is “good”. Treat people as an end unto themselves – dignity and respect as humans tantamount.
    1. Proportionality – punishment should fit the crime. Proportionality treats the people with the dignity and respect they deserve.
  • Rehabilitation
    • Rehabilitation to prevent recidivism
      • Drug addicts prepared for real life.
      • Violent offenders????
  • Incapacitation
    • Incarceration reduces opportunity to perform criminal acts.
    • Incarceration may be likely to increase chance of recidivism.

Essential elements of crimes:

Actus Rea, Mens Rea, and Causation.

  1. Actus Reus – Culpable Conduct

The act itself. The physical or external element of a crime. The bad or unlawful act.

  1. Often prohibited conduct, e.g., speeding
    1. Often prohibited result, e.g., killing
      1. Prohibited result are more efficient than
    1. Attendant Circumstance – An attendant circumstance, e.g., being a minor in a statutory rape case, may be required.

Note: Generally, in American Criminal Law, as in American Tort Law, there is no requirement to act to prevent a criminal or tortious act unless there is a pre-existing legal duty. If there is a pre-existing legal duty, then an omission/failure to act can give rise to criminal liability (just as it can give rise to tort liability).

Rule: Where not self-induced, as by voluntary intoxication, unconsciousness is a complete defense to criminal homicide.

Why? “Because the law’s concern, for purposes of punishment, is with the conscious mind.”

  1. Pre-existing legal duties can come from:
    1.  Statute, e.g., duty to pay taxes
    1. contracts, e.g., nanny or nurse
    1. relationships, e.g., parental
    1. assumption of care, e.g., doctor at the scene of an accident
    1. creators of peril and their victims
  • Mens rea – The mental state required for the act.
  1. Model Penal Code (MPC) – drafted in late 1950’s/ early 1960’s.
    1. Least adopted but most influential code.
    1. Defines mens rea requirements, and is used to define other definitions as well.
    • Defines mental states at Common Law:
      • Purposefully – Acting with a goal (conscious object) to engage in the prohibited conduct or bring about the prohibited result.
        • Highest mental state, greatest culpability
      • Knowingly – Act knowingly if you have awareness.
        • Conduct crimes – If the crime is defined as “knowingly smoking pot”, awareness that you are indeed smoking “pot” that yields criminal liability.
        • Result crimes – Awareness of conduct that brings about the prohibited result.
      • Recklessly – A gross deviation from the standard of care of a law-abiding person in consciously disre

Causation – The actor must do something that causes a resul