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DEFENSES a) Ignorance or mistake, MPC 2.04 (1) Ignorance or mistake as to a matter of fact or law is a defense if: (a) the ignorance or mistake negatives the purpose, knowledge, belief, recklessness or negligence required to establish a material element of the offense; or (b) the law provides that the state of mind established by such ignorance or mistake constitutes a defense. (2) Although ignorance or mistake would otherwise afford a defense to the offense charged, the defense is not available if the defendant would be guilty of another offense had the situation been as he supposed. In such case, however, the ignorance or mistake of the defendant shall reduce the grade and degree of the offense of which he may be convicted to those of the offense of which he would be guilty had the situation been as he supposed. Mistake of fact b) State v. Kelly (1985) - pg 351: D removes oak fireplace mantels from 2 unoccupied houses - paid to do so by Bradley who then gets money from selling the mantels. Turns out homes were owned by Bradley's ex and her lover. D believed they belonged to Bradley i) Held: mistake of fact. It is fundamental to the definition of larceny that the personal property must be taken without the consent of the owner. One who takes in good faith, honestly believing he is the owner and has right to take it, is not guilty. No felonious intent. c) Commonwealth v. Miller (1985) - pg 553: same for attempt d) US v. Zachary (2006): D, an Army soldier, pled guilty to "indecent acts upon a child ... under the age of 16," even though D reasonably believed victim was over
16. Had this been the case, D would have been guilty only of "indecent acts ...
with another." i) HELD: D's guilty plea to greater charge was "improvident"; vacated and judgment of guilty entered on lesser charge. e) People v. Olson (1984) - pg 239 - girl in trailer, under 14, raped by 2 men. Varying accounts. i) Held: Reasonable mistake as to victim's age was not a mistake. Courts assume legislature did not intend MR to matter because they explicitly write that it matters for a subsection, which wouldn't be a necessary qualifier if ignorance served as complete defense. f) Regina v. Prince (1875) - pg 234 - man takes girl from her father without his consent, without realizing she is under 16 i) MR does not matter because the act (taking young daughter from parents without parental consent) is morally condemnable by the community. Knowledge regarding age is immaterial. g) MPC 213.6 Mistake as to Age - Whenever criminality of conduct depends on child's being below age 10, it is no defense that the actor did not know the child's age. When criminality depends on the child's being below a critical age other than 10, it is a defense for the actor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he reasonably believed the child to be above the critical age. h) Mistake of-fact Takeaways i) Common-law rules: moral-wrong principle (Prince); lesser-crime principle (1)Common law rules live on, not just in statutory rape
ii) MPC rejects common-law rules - says to figure out MR first, then decide whether mistake-of-fact negates the MR (and if perceived act is a lesser crime, punish only for lesser crime) iii) General slow trend in statutory rape (including in MPC's sexual assault crimes) to abandon SL and allow for reasonable mistake of age defense Mistake/Ignorance of Law iv) Generally, ignorance of the law is no excuse (common-law rule, and rule in most jurisdictions nowadays). v) jurisdictions free to create a defense based on reliance on reasonable but mistaken interpretation of law (1)MPC is narrow (2)NJ allows "reasonable interpretation" of law as defense (broad) vi) Complexity or malum prohibitum nature of crime may cause a court to more leniently construe MR requirement of material elements related to legality of conduct (e.g., Cheek) vii) Common thread: Fair notice of what law is viii) MPC 2.04 3) A belief that conduct does not legally constitute an offense is a defense to a prosecution for that offense based upon such conduct when: (a) the statute or other enactment defining the offense is not known to the actor and has not been published or otherwise reasonably made available prior to the conduct alleged; or (b) he acts in reasonable reliance upon an official statement of the law, afterward determined to be invalid or erroneous, contained in (i) a statute or other enactment; (ii) a judicial decision, opinion or judgment; (iii) an administrative order or grant of permission; or (iv) an official interpretation of the public officer or body charged by law with responsibility for the interpretation, administration or enforcement of the law defining the offense. ix) MPC 2.02 (9) Culpability as to Illegality of Conduct. Neither knowledge nor recklessness or negligence as to whether conduct constitutes an offense or as to the existence, meaning or application of the law determining the elements of an offense is an element of such offense, unless the definition of the offense or the Code so provides. x) People v. Marrero (1987) - pg 267 - D arrested at social club for unlicensed possession of handgun. He interpreted a statute which allowed this action from a peace officer to include him, a federal corrections officer. (1)Held: Ignorance regarding a matter of law is not a defense. Don't want to encourage ignorance. (a) Narrow rule: only applies to laws that were changed without the person's reasonable awareness
(i) Purpose: encourage public to read and rely on official statements of law, not to have individuals conveniently and personally question the validity and interpretation of the law and act on that basis (2)Policy conern: too hard to prove mistake of law. Potential for crazy loopholes. Litigation nightmare. Deliberate exploitation by those that study and understand the law. Legal chaos. (3)Dissent: innocent crime paradox. Should depend on good-faith interpretation that is reasonable. That the NY statute specifically has different wording from the MPC seems to show that the statute allows ignorance as a defense. xi) Cheek v. United States (1991) - pg 275 - pilot doesn't pay taxes because he attends meetings with conspiracy group that "believes" wages are not income and that taxes are unconstitutional. (1)Held: Not a defense. This is not a case of ignorance, but of studying the law and coming to a conclusion about it. Instead, he should have filed taxes and then sued based on the unconstitutional argument. (a) He did not exercise "reasonable care" in ascertaining the truth and thus the willfulness requirement was met. Therefore defendant was aware of the duty at issue (not a good faith misunderstanding) (b)In tax context, "knowingly" means you are violating your legal duty. Awareness that the material element exists. (c) Your mistake must have to do with the complexit of the tax code in order to qualify as a negative element defense xii) Why allow mistake of law as defense?
(1)Laws can be really complicated (2)Risk of punishing the innocent - doesn't really achieve a purpose (3)Notice problem: should you always be aware that things you are doing are subject to regulation (4)Encourages legislature to have clarity in their laws Self Defense a) COMMON LAW: elements generally required for use of deadly force i) Defendant must: (1)Honestly and (2)Reasonably believe deadly force is (3)Necessary to protect himself from (4)Imminent use of (5)Unlawful (6)Deadly force by another person (a) Note: proof that threat actually turned out to be real, imminent, and deadly isn't required. b) MPC 3.04: (b) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this Section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat...
i) MPC3.09: (2) When the actor believes that the use of force ... is necessary ... but the actor is reckless or negligent in having such belief or in acquiring or failing to acquire any knowledge or belief that is material to the justifiability of his use of force, the justification afforded by those Sections is unavailable in a prosecution for an offense for which recklessness or negligence, as the case may be, suffices to establish culpability.
c) People v. Goetz (1986) - pg 739 - man shoots 4 black youths on subway, when they approach him asking for $5. Intent is clear. Continues killing after danger is over (one does not die and he observes this, and shoots him). Aims for chest. Wants to submit statistics to jury to show that his fear of imminent threat was reasonable. Kills 3, paralyzes 1. i) Held: Allowing a person to justify his conduct by self-defense simply because he personally believes that his actions are justified cannot be a result the legislature intended. This would allow any person, no matter how delusional, to kill at will if he believes his actions are justified. Therefore, "reasonableness" must be determined based upon the circumstances facing a defendant. Court must apply objective standard. (1)Jury acquits- no evidence he acted out of any other motive besides fear ii) Allowing statistics?
(1)White on white vs black on black, vs black on white/vv (2)Blacks more likely to commit violent crime/robbery than whites iii) Should law reflect who we are (we have the propensity to eat the boy on the boat) or should the law reflect how we ought to be?? Should law be the 'great teacher' if people are racists?
iv) Rule of law versus vigilante justice d) Theories justifying or excusing battered spouse's actions?
i) Catch-all affirmative defense: "any other circumstances in which the defendant's killing of the victim was morally justified?" ii) Forfeiture-by-wrongdoing justification?
iii) Insanity excuse?
iv) Duress/necessity excuse v) Stephen J. Morse: "If death or serious bodily harm in the relatively near future is a virtual certainty and the future attack cannot be adequately defended against when it is imminent and if there really are no reasonable alternatives, traditional self-defense doctrine ought to justify the pre-emptive strike." e) MPC 3.04(1) ... [T]he use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion. f) State v. Norman (1989) - pg 763 - married 25 years. 14 when she married him. He threatened to kill her for years. Beating D for 20 of those years. Abuse had gotten so severe that psychologist characterized it as torture - reduction to an animal level of existence - all behavior marked purely by survivial. D in constant fear, did not seek help for fear of serious deprival. Police never arrest him because of mandatory arrest laws.Past arrest, no charge, at one point he drug D out of office by her hair (when she was seeking help). D drove baby to mother's house, found gun, drove home, and shot husband. i) Held: V's passiveness at the time of killing precludes D's assertion of selfdefense. Must be based on necessity, real or reasonably apparent, risk of imminent death or great bodily harm. (1)Imminent danger = that which one cannot be protected from by the calling for help or protection of law (2)Court does not favor homicidal self-help ii) Replace "imminence" with "inevitable harm" or "immediately necessary" (MPC) rule? Or one of the other theories above?
Imperfect Self Defense
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