Someone recently bought our

students are currently browsing our notes.


Criminal Law Outline

Law Outlines > Criminal Law Outlines

This is an extract of our Criminal Law Outline document, which we sell as part of our Criminal Law Outlines collection written by the top tier of Golden Gate University School Of Law students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Criminal Law Outlines. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Taylor Massie

Criminal Law Outline

I. II.

III. Sources of Criminal Law
A. English common law
B. Social morals
C. Modern legislation
D. Model penal code
Proving guilt at a trial
A. Right to a trial by jury: Under the Sixth Amendment, "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.
B. Burden of proof: A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent. The State must prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
C. Jury nullification: Is not a right given by the Constitution. It is power that the jury possesses to nullify the law. Because (1) a jury returns a general verdict; they do not have to justify their verdict; (2) the Fifth Amendment protects a defendant from "double jeopardy"
Purposes of Punishment
A. Utilitarian

1. Deterrence: general and specific

2. Isolation/protection

3. Rehabilitation a) People v. Du
B. Retributivism

1. An 'eye for an eye'

Constitutional Limits on Criminal Law

I. II.


V. First amendment: Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech.
Second amendment: the right of the people to keep and bear arms
Fourth amendment: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures
Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment [shall not be] inflicted
Fourteenth Amendment: Due Process Clause -> states not only guarantee procedural fairness to criminal defendants, but also to respect substantive principles of justice

Statutory Analysis

I. II.

Due process
A. Burden of proof - on the govt in criminal cases
B. Standard of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt
A. Principle of legality - nullum crimen sine lege, nulla poena sine lege

1. No retroactive expansion/application of criminal laws

2. Compare: ex post facto (legislative), Art. I, Sections 9,10 of the
B. Void for Vagueness Doctrine

1. Definiteness

2. Minimum guidelines to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the laws Taylor Massie

III. 3. Inhibits exercise of 1st amendment rights
C. Rule of Strict construction/doctrine of lenity(p 113): statutory interpretation in favor of the defendant and against the government.

1. Legislative intent

2. Common law

3. Plain meaning/dictionary

4. Purpose/policy

5. Statutes in pari materia

6. Legislative history
Principle of legality v ex post facto (how are they different)
A. Ex post facto applies to legislative

1. 10th amendment

2. No retroactive creation or expansion of crimes
B. Principle of legality applies to judicial branch

1. No retroactive creation or expansion of crimes

Elements of a Crime

I. II.

Actus Reus - Acts and Omissions
A. The criminal act Voluntary act or failure to act w/ legal duty
B. Failure to act: a legal duty and the failure to do so
C. MPC Under 2.01: Voluntary Act or Omission to Perform an Act of which the
Actor is Physically Capable

1. Voluntary: not reflexive, volitional, compare: intentional, deliberate,
purposeful OR legal duty

2. Statute: if a statute tells one that they have legal duty to help a) Example: hit someone with a car dont leave or hit and run

3. Status: relationship status

4. Contract

5. Creation of risk

6. Assumption of duty a) Example: lifeguard, security guard b) If you assume the duty you have to finish it
D. All crimes have an actus reus, but not all crimes have a mens rea
Mens Rea - State of Mind
A. MPC SECTION 2.02 - Four mental States for Criminal Culpability

1. Purposely (aka intentionally) - conscious object to engage in conduct of the nature or to cause such a result and if the element involves attendant circumstances, is are of their existence or believes or hopes those circumstances exist

2. Knowingly - aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist and if the element involves a result of his conduct a) Knowledge of high probability b) Willful blindness = knowingly (same rule under the common law)

3. Recklessly - consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk.
(subjective standard) the actors conduct involves a gross deviation from Taylor Massie

III. the standard of conduct a law-abiding person would observe in the actor's situation

4. Negligently - when the actor should be aware of a substantial and justifiable risk. (objective standard) the actor's failure.
B. General v specific intent

1. General intent - the intent to commit the actus reus of the crime; for general intent crimes it is assumed under the common law that the intent is purposefully or knowingly

2. Specific intent - any additional mental state required for the crime a) Intoxication can be a defense

3. Attended circumstances a) Not all crimes have attended circumstances but burglary does

4. Crimes a) Arson (general intent)
(1) Malicious (intentionally or recklessly)
(2) Burning
(3) Another's dwelling b) Battery (general intent)
C. Causation

1. Actual - but for, factual

2. Proximate - legal foreseeability
Strict Liability Offenses - Generally, Two Types:
A. Public welfare offenses - Malum Prohibitum (it's wrong because we said so)

1. Ex: Traffic Regulations, Building Codes, Food and Drug Regulations,
Liquor Sales
B. Common Law Partial Strict Liability Crimes - Malum in Se (wrong because they are inherently wrong)

1. Felony murder

2. Statutory rape

3. These are partial liability crimes because they are missing a mens rea a) For felony murder there is no intent for the murder occurring because of the felony b) For statutory rape there is no intent for the age
C. *Just because the statute does not directly state which kind of mens rea is required for a crime, then one must use the common law*


I. II.

III. In order to have causation you MUST have both elements.
Actual/But For/Factual
A. But for the action, the result would not have occurred
B. Acceleration - both acts are causes in fact of the harm
C. Substantial factor test - either act alone causes the harm. Each act is a cause in fact of the harm
A. Examine foreseeability of consequence.
B. Intervening causes - do NOT break the causal connection between the actor's conduct and the resulting harm Taylor Massie

1. Ordinary negligence = intervening
C. Superceding causes - do break the causal connection between the actor's conduct and the resulting harm

1. Gross negligence = superceding

2. Apparent safety doctrine = superceding

3. Acts of God and third-party actions almost always superseding

4. Victim's acts should also be taken into account
D. Public policy/Foreseeability

1. Types of Intervening/Superceding Acts:
a) Acts of God/Nature b) 3rd party acts c) Victim's acts

2. Intended consequences doctrine

3. Responsive intervening cause = intervening unless unforeseeable

4. Coincidental intervening causes = superceding unless foreseeable
E. Extreme recklessness -> Ordinary recklessness -> gross negligence (midpoint)->
civil negligence. Gross negligence: they were not aware, they should've been aware, and the failure to be aware is way below the standard of care


I. Murder - common law
A. Killing of another human being

1. Human Being a) CL: Born Alive b) Modern: Feticide (some states)
c) CL: Cessation of Respiratory Functions d) Modern: Brain Death e) Causation
(1) CL: 1 Year and 1 Day
(2) Modern/California: 3 Years and 1 Day
B. Done with malice aforethought

1. Malice aforethought: if a person possesses one of the four states of mind a) Intent to kill (more intense) 1st degree (express malice) (specific intent)
(1) For attempted murder, it only works for intent to kill b) Great bodily injury (less intense than intent to kill - generally speaking because this person was more than likely going to die)
2nd degree (implied malice - specific intent)
c) Depraved heart (unintentional killing) is extreme recklessness you have to prove (implied malice - general intent)
(1) There is subjective awareness/conscious disregard
(2) Substantial/Unjustifiable risk of death d) Felony-murder rule (implied malice - specific intent)
(1) Partial strict liability - No intent to commit the actus reus necessary, only the intent to commit the underlying felony Taylor Massie

(2) CL: Any death during the commission or attempted commission of a felony
(a) Causation (actual + proximate) - time, place, and manner
(3) Modern limitations
(a) Specifically, enumerated felonies
(b) Inherently dangerous felonies
Case by case (majority): this felony must be committed without involving a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death then your
Abstract (minority, including California)
(c) Merger doctrine/independent felony rule
Exception: independent felonious intent
(have to prove two separate intent)
Exception: specifically, enumerated felonies
(d) Causation (actual + proximate) - time, place, and manner
(e) Accomplice liability
CL Rule - proximate cause
Redline rule (min) - no FMR if killing is justified

Agency Rule (maj) - FMR extended only to acts of agents (co-felons on the "same team")
(f) Death Penalty - Non-trigger co-felon
Extreme recklessness
Substantial participation in predicate felony
(4) Majority of states that use 1 and 2 use specifically enumerated as first degree FMR and 2 as second degree
C. Without excuse, justification or mitigation

1. If you have excuse or justification - you have the burden of proof a) Minority perspective: Necessity can never be defense unless net lives are saved (Model Penal Code)
b) Majority not for murder
D. First Degree Intent to Kill Murder

1. Intent to kill murder with premeditation and deliberation a) Premeditation: think about something beforehand
(1) Majority like California: think premeditation can have in the twinkling of an eye
(2) Minority: think premeditation is time for a second look ->
it can happen quickly but not instantly b) Deliberation: weighing options
E. Voluntary Manslaughter Taylor Massie

1. Manslaughter: Unlawful killing that does not involve malice aforethought
(because there are mitigating circumstances) BUT it is still without excuse or justification a) An intentional homicide committed in 'sudden heat of passion' as the result of 'adequate provocation' mitigates the offense to voluntary manslaughter.

2. Murder committed in response to adequate provocation a) Heat of Passion
(1) Actual Provocation (subjective)
(2) Reasonable provocation (objective)
(a) Characteristics re Gravity of the Provocation (ok) v
Character Defects
Words alone - minority ok
(a) Insulting v Informative
(3) No cooling off
(4) Compare MPC: Extreme Mental Emotional Disturbance
(a) Minority jurisdiction: This is a broader concept than heat of passion and will be more likely to get jury to decide on this -> some states have completely rid of heat of passion b) Diminished Capacity (minority only)
(1) Drop down from legal insanity. Although it is used in the minority for criminal defenses/mitigation, this term still has many other uses in the legal field c) Imperfect Privilege (imperfect self-defense, defense of others,
defense of habitation)
F. Involuntary Manslaughter

1. Misdemeanor manslaughter: An accidental homicide that occurs during the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony a) Non-dangerous felonies b) Malum in se misdemeanors c) IF PREDICATE FELONY FOR FMR IS NOT INHERENTLY

2. Civil/criminal negligence a) Common law; gross negligence required b) Modern majority: gross negligence or recklessness required c) Minority: Ordinary (civil) negligence ok for criminal liability


I. II.

Burglary - common law (violent theft) (specific intent)
A. Breaking: create an opening
B. Entering
C. Into a dwelling: where you sleep/where you feel safe
D. At night: after sunset
E. With the intent to commit a felony
Larceny (non-violent theft) (specific intent): Trespassory taking and carrying away of the personal property of another with intent to permanently deprive (steal)_

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Criminal Law Outlines.