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Elements Of Culpability Outline

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This is an extract of our Elements Of Culpability document, which we sell as part of our Criminal Outlines collection written by the top tier of U.C. Berkeley School Of Law (Boalt Hall) students.

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Elements of Culpability 1) Statutory Interpretation a) Steps i) Plain meaning, dictionary (1)Intrinsic aid (comes from within same statutory scheme) (2)Extrinsic aid (comes from another jurisdiction or area of law) ii) Legislative intent iii) When there is a common law term, use common law meaning (absent a statutory definition to the contrary) b) Textualists argue key factor is: notice c) Rule of Lenity: resolve ambiguities in favor of the defendant 2) Ingredients of culpability a) Actus Reas b) Mens Rea c) Causation d) Attendant Circumstances: background fact that is crucial for determining whether that conduct is harmful. 3) Actus Reas (guilty act) a) Thought Crimes?
i) It's a federal crime to cross state lines with "intent" to break the law ii) Others = intent to distribute, conspiracy plans, threats b) Typically we only punish affirmative acts (must be voluntary) c) Possession is an act (usually requires awareness) d) MPC 2.01 (1) A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable. (2) The following are not voluntary acts within the meaning of this Section: (a) a reflex or convulsion; (b) a bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep; (c) conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion; (d) a bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual. e) Omissions i) Critical Questions (1)Who should have to act?
(2)At what point should they be required to act?
(3)How much should they be required to do?
ii) MPC 2.01

(3) Liability for the commission of an offense may not be based on an omission unaccompanied by action unless: (a) the omission is expressly made sufficient by the law defining the offense; or (b) a duty to perform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by law. (4) Possession is an act, w/in the meaning of this Section, if the possessor knowingly procured or received the thing possessed or was aware of his control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate his possession." iii) Child Abuse (1)"caused, by being in some manner accountable for, by act of commission or omission, abuse to the child in the form of (a) physical injury or injuries sustained by the child as the result of (i) cruel or inhumane treatment, or (ii) malicious act or acts by such person." iv) Duty to Rescue (1)No general duty to rescue ("American bystander rule"), but failure to act can be punished when (a) legal duty to act created by offense itself; or (b)duty "otherwise imposed by law" (i) "Otherwise imposed" generally includes:

1. Defined by relationship

2. Defined by explicit statutory duty

3. Defined by contractual duty

4. Defined by actor's creation of peril

5. Seclusion & prevention of receiving other aid

6. Cause the harm that imperils

7. Can have one mental state re: initial act and one mental state re: omission (2)State v. Kuntz (2000) - Defendant stabs live-in boyfriend during physical altercation and fails to call for medical help. (a) Living together for 6 years = same personal relationship (one of mutual reliance) as spouse (b) Held: when a person justifiably uses force to fend off an aggressor, that person has no duty to assist her aggressor in any manner that may conceivably create the risk of bodily injury or death to herself, or other persons. (i) D has but one duty after fending off her attacker - to herself (ii) Once V is safe, duty may be revived: it must be shown that 1) the person had knowledge of the facts indicating a duty to act; and 2) the person was physically capable of performing the act.

(3)Jones v. United States (1962) - 10 month old baby dies from abuse coming from emotionally unstable mother. Both lived with Shirley Green, who had no familial relation. (a) Held: Ommission only punishable where legal duty is neglected, not moral obligation neglected. (4)Pope v. State (1979) - pg 194 - Defendant takes in crazy mother who, believing she is possessed by God, beats 3-month old to death. Defendant does not step in. State: she created a duty by acting as a parent. (a) Held: no duty (b)Mental illness of mother irrelevant - places too big a burden on society to require citizens to take on duty after determining, by themselves, that mother is unfit. (c) If safeguard desired, legislature must create it. 4) Mens Rea a) The choice of mens rea is directly related to deate over purposes of criminalization b) MPC isn't perfect, but is a helpful default guide i) Need at least criminal negligence for material elements of crimes ii) If no MR ? recklessness iii) If one MR ? apply to all unless contrary purpose c) Morissette v. US (1952): "Crime is generally constituted only from concurrence of an evil-meaning mind with an evil-doing hand." d) Legislator: determines level of mens rea necessary to effectuate the purpose of the statute. i) If you want to be strict on statutory rape, allow for a lenient MR to lead to conviction ii) If more worried about moral blameworthiness rather than social utility, then only punish the conduct which is intentional (1)Punishment goal dictates MR you insert into statute (2)Each different level of MR carries different levels of harm to society iii) How to determine ambiguous MR: (1)Nature of offense (a) Conventional common-law or new?
(b)How widespread is the harm? (societal/individual) (c) Type of conduct (inherently dangerous? Obvious that it might be subject to regulation? More individual?) iv) Regina v. Cunningham (1957) - pg 214 - appellant causes asyphixiation of mother in law after ripping of gas pipe in apt. complex to steal its money. Statute requires "malicious administering/causing poison upon another person." (1)Held: Malice does not require wickedness. Malice is "intention to do a particular kind of harm or recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not."

(2)Foreseeable consequence of actions is sufficient to constitute maliciousness. e) MPC 1.13 (9) "element of an offense" means (i) such conduct or (ii) such attendant circumstances or (iii) such a result of conduct as (a) is included in the description of the forbidden conduct in the definition of the offense; or (b) establishes the required kind of culpability; or (c) negatives an excuse or justification for such conduct; or (d) negatives a defense under the statute of limitations; or (e) establishes jurisdiction or venue; (10) "material element of an offense" means an element that does not relate exclusively to the statute of limitations, jurisdiction, venue or to any other matter similarly unconnected with (i) the harm or evil, incident to conduct, sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense, or (ii) the existence of a justification or excuse for such conduct.... f) MPC 2.02(2) i) Purposely (1)i) 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 (2)(ii) if the element involves the attendant circumstances, he is aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes or hopes that they exist. ii) Knowingly (1)i) 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 (2)(ii) if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result iii) Recklessly (1)he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. (a) The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a lawabiding person would observe in the actor's situation.

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