This is an extract of our Criminal Law document, which we sell as part of our Criminal Law Outlines collection written by the top tier of University Of Virginia 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:
Criminal Law - University of Virginia School of Law The Criminal Act - Actus Reus
1. Material Elements of Actus Reus a. Conduct i. Acts or omissions required to complete the offense ii. Directly controlled by actor b. Circumstances i. External facts that must be in existence for a crime to be committed ii. Outside actor's control besides mere presence there c. Result i. Consequences of conduct incorporated in the definition of the offense
1. Not always specified by statute
2. Voluntary Act Doctrine a. Martin v. State (p. 68) i. Facts: Martin was arrested while drunk in his home, and then involuntarily and forcibly taken to a public place by the arresting officer and tried of public intoxication ii. Rule: For the crime of public intoxication, both the intoxication and the presence in public must be voluntary iii. General Rule: every actus reus defined within the crime must be voluntary b. Types of Involuntary Acts (p. 69-70) i. Physically Coerced Movement
1. If someone takes your fist and hits someone else with it, you're not liable ii. Reflex Movements
1. If someone acts upon you in such a way that you reflexively act, you are not liable (scaring you, hitting your kneecap, etc.) iii. Muscular Contraction or Paralysis Produced by Disease (note relation to knowledge of epilepsy demonstrating recklessness for certain activities, e.g. driving) iv. Unconsciousness
1. E.g. mothers rolling over in their sleep c. MPC SS 2.01 - Voluntary Act, Omission, Possession i. Same involuntary acts as above ii. Omission: must be expressly made punishable by the law, or there must be a duty to perform the act made by law iii. Possession requires: Knowledge with sufficient time to allow termination of possession d. People v. Decina (p. 72) i. Facts: Decina, who was prone to epileptic seizures, suffered an epileptic seizure while driving and ran over and killed several children ii. Rule: His awareness of a condition, which he knows may produce dangerous consequences, and his disregard of the consequences by participating in the act of driving, satisfies the voluntary act requirement for a negligent crime. e. People v. Gastello (p. 73) i. Facts: Gastello did not declare drugs on his person when he was brought into jail for another crime. ii. Rule: Same as Martin; he did not voluntarily enter jail. iii. Reasoning:
1. 5th Amendment; Gastello was not compelled to incriminate himself for drug possession just because he was involuntarily taken to jail.
2. Exempting jail from the voluntary act doctrine would be a slippery slope enabling the state to take people places against their will for the sole purpose of charging them.
1 3. Omissions a. See MPC 2.01 - omissions must be based on a duty to act or an explicitly punished omission in law b. Billingslea v. State (p. 118) - Duty to Act vs. Forbidden Results i. Facts: Defendant grossly neglected his mother which resulted in deterioration and later death, granddaughter had tried to intervene but Defendant would not grant her access ii. Rule: There must be a statutory duty to act in order for an omission to act to be criminal. When the statute does not pose a specific duty upon anyone, no one can be held liable for omitting to perform that duty. iii. Note: Had they charged him with preventing the granddaughter from providing care, he could have been convicted. iv. VTCA Penal Code (TEXAS)
1. SS 22.04: anyone who by act or omission causes injury, etc. to a person 65+ has committed an offense a. In response to this case, 22.04(b) was modified to impose a duty to act if he had assumed "care, custody, or control of a child, elderly or invalid individual."
2. SS 6.01(c): cannot be found guilty unless the statute provides that the omission is an offense or otherwise provides a statutory duty to act
3. Specific to Texas: Texas is highly faithful to its statutes and common law duties do not exist in TX unless they are included in a statute. In other jurisdictions, a court may have been able to read the common law duty into this case and convict D c. General Omission Overview i. Legal duty to act arises from a lot of sources
1. Usually arises from a statute ii. Also from contractual obligations
1. I.e. a lifeguard at a public pool iii. Also from relationships
1. Easiest case is the legal responsibility a parent has to safeguard a minor d. Voluntary Assumption of Responsibility i. You see someone incapacitated on the side of the road and you do nothing--you are not criminally liable (you're an asshole though) ii. You see someone incapacitated on the side of the road and you take them into your home and then you do nothing--you are criminally liable iii. When you assert yourself to assume responsibility, you become liable
1. Relieve everyone else
2. Sometimes you've secreted the incapacitated person precluding other people from acting e. Failure to Provide Sustenance: i. Regina v. Instan. (p. 127): Common law duties arise from moral obligations, but mere moral obligation is not always sufficient to create duty. ii. Jones v. United States (p. 128): No duty to care for children when one was originally employed/paid to do so but then payments ended. iii. Medical Assistance for Drug Overdose
1. People v. Beardsley (p. 129): moving a passed out friend from his place into another friend's room, she later died from there after an overdose -> no duty since it was of her own free will
2. People v. Oliver (p. 130): Defendant took a drunk man to her place, shot up heroin, left for the bar again and the man died of an OD -> duty existed because she took him into her care/custody f. Duty to Rescue (p. 130)
2 g. Omission of Life-Sustaining Treatment - Barber v. Superior Court of LA County (p. 132) i. Doctors can legally omit care that would prolong the life of individuals ii. Doctors cannot take an action that would hasten the process at the end of life iii. Make a distinction between an act and an omission, even when there is an incredibly small difference
3 Mens Rea
1. Common Law Mens Rea a. Specific vs General Intent - DEFINES MISTAKE i. Specific intent
1. Actual intention to do the action prohibited by the statute, and if knowledge is an element, actual knowledge or conscious desire of wrongdoing.
2. Always negated by an honest mistake of fact
3. Statute/description will say something about it
4. Green v. State (p. 176): honest mistake of fact is always exculpatory (butchering mixed up hogs excused larceny) ii. General intent: "everything else"
1. Negated by an honest and reasonable mistake of
2. There will be no mens rea written into the statute.
3. Includes most crimes that the model penal code would characterize as requiring negligence of recklessness.
4. Default: negligence iii. Intersection: different requirements for separate parts of a crime
1. State v. Walker (p. 177) - different intent required for different aspects (taking vs. identity in abduction) a. Facts: Dad and Grandad try to pick up son and daughter, mistakenly take another girl instead of the daughter and immediately return her upon learning of their mistake b. Rule: for abduction, the actual taking of a child requires specific intent, whereas in relation to the child's identity of only general intent is required (i.e. mistake of fact is exculpatory for abduction in relation to the identity of the child)
2. General intent within specific intent (US v. Yermian p. 181): "Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willingly...makes any false...statements"->specific intent for the act of lying, but general intent for the identity of the US agency iv. Strict liability for moral wrongs (Regina v. Prince p. 183): Statutory rape case; D is held to strict liability and isn't allowed to present a defense that he was mistaken as to the girl's age because under social norms premarital sex was still wrong. Rule on statutory rape still carries over to this day: no mistake of age is exculpatory. b. Grading under Common Law Mens Rea i. MISTAKES are NOT relevant for grading ii. Ex: If you steal something you thought was $50, but it was actually $5,000--then you are guilty of Grand Theft, even though you didn't know
1. Because you were already guilty of theft, it doesn't matter you were mistaken in your assessment of your own guilt c. Rule of Mistake of Fact i. General Intent - Reasonable
1. Goes to what a reasonable person would believe about the facts
2. This is the opposite side of the coin from mens rea
3. An unreasonable mistake is negligent, and thus satisfies mens rea of negligence. a. United States v. Oglivie (p. 179): bigamy is a general intent (not strict liability) crime, but he could have done more to determine if he was still married ii. Specific Intent - Honest
1. Goes to what the defendant honestly believed about the facts
2. An honest yet unreasonable mistake is exculpatory for Specific Intent crimes
4 d. Application of Mens Rea to Material Elements of Actus Reus i. Conduct
1. Acts or omissions required to complete the offense
2. Directly controlled by actor
3. Mens rea applies to intention to perform the conduct ii. Circumstances
1. External facts that must be in existence for a crime to be committed
2. Outside actor's control
3. Mens rea applies to D's awareness of these circumstances iii. Result
1. Consequences of conduct incorporated in the definition of the offense a. Not always specified by statute
2. Mens rea applies to intention to bring about the results e. Alternatives: interpreting flood of words i. Common law negligence: Regina v. Faulkner - interpreted "feloniously, unlawfully, and maliciously" to mean requiring negligence (ought to have foreseen) beyond the intent associated with a concurrent crime (stealing rum), not transferable between wicked acts ii. Common law recklessness: Regina v. Cunningham - interpreted "maliciously" to indicate intent or recklessness as to the harm, not just intent from another crime in the process (stealing)
1. Facts: Gas meter ripped out - asphyxiation though not fatal iii. Director of Public Prosecutions v. Smith: speeding away with a cop hanging on your door with intention to shake him off, but not to cause harm constitutes negligent homicide, not murder: interpreted "malice aforethought" as negligence (car swerving to throw off cop)
2. MPC Mens Rea a. MPC 2.02: Four Mens Rea Terms (minimum culpability requirement - evidence of higher standard proves lower standards) i. Purpose
1. Conduct: Conscious object/intention to engage
2. Circumstances: Awareness, belief, or hope
3. Result: Conscious object to cause ii. Knowledge
1. Conduct: Aware of nature of actions
2. Circumstances: Aware they exist
3. Result: Practically certain conduct will cause them. iii. Recklessness
1. All material elements: Conscious disregard of risk that is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct of a law abiding person. iv. Negligence
1. All material elements: Should have been aware that risk is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct of a law abiding person. v. Distinctions between the terms
1. The line between purpose and knowledge is how certain and embedded in the actor's conduct the knowledge is
2. Recklessness advertently creates risk, negligence inadvertently creates risk. vi. Mistake
1. An honest mistake negates purpose or knowledge
2. A non-reckless mistake negates recklessness
3. A reasonable mistake negates negligence. b. MPC 2.02 (3), (4) i.
2.02 (3) Offenses Silent to Mens Rea
5 1. Recklessness is assumed a. MPC ONLY: Does not apply to any non-MPC statutes. ii.
2.02 (4) Grammatical ambiguity
1. If it is not certain as to which material element a mens rea term applies to, it applies to all of them
2. This does not mean a single mens rea term applies to each actus reus of a statute.
3. Ignorantia Juris Neminem Excusat (Ignorance of the law is no excuse) a. MPC 2.02(9) says no mens rea is exculpatory for not knowing what constitutes an offense (subject to some exceptions) b. Mens rea terms apply to the facts (conduct, circumstances, results), not the law c. An honest and reasonable mistake of law is not exculpatory. d. State v. Fox (p. 201): purchasing of mail order ephedrine, even without knowledge that ephedrine is illegal is still criminal e. Policy: i. The law is as it is, not as the actor thinks it is. ii. Allowing ignorance of law to acquit one D would encourage broad ignorance of the law iii. The law would thus apply to each person as he thinks it is, which would mean each person is subject to different law. f. Exceptions: i. MPC 2.04
1. 2.02(9): no mistake of law absent provision by the code
2. 2.04(1) says mistake of fact or law is a defense given one of two requirements a. If it negatives the mens rea of a material element of a defense b. If the law says ignorance thereof can be a mistake
3. 2.04(2) if actor is still guilty of another offense based on the mistake then grade/degree is reduced to that offense
4. 2.04(3) carves out from 2.02(9): a. (a)If the new law is not yet published b. (b)If actor relies on an official statement of law which erroneously presents a statute, judicial opinion, administrative order, or by a public officer charged with interpreting the law ii. This is an affirmative defense
1. Burden is on D to prove beyond preponderance of the evidence (i.e. truth/accuracy of the evidence, which seems more truthful)
2. POLICY: Rewards people who actively seek out the law iii. Common Law Example: Lambert v. California (oft-cited as an exception, not a rule) THIS IS A FUCKING TRAP, BITCHES
1. Punished omission of registering with police as a convicted felon upon entering LA if there for >5 days
2. Struck down as punishment of omission w/o educating people (yet this is done all the time)
3. Better analysis: this should have been a vagueness problem if arbitrary enforcement
4. Other problems: punishing seemingly innocent conduct, there's good reason for someone to do the conduct, this gives broad police power iv. Common Law Says the Opposite:
1. Hopkins v. State: minister charged with violating ban on advertising wedding services after getting it cleared by local prosecutor. a. Common law convicts b. MPC 2.04(3)(b) would have been exculpatory.
6 2. State v. Striggles: charged with use of gambling machine that lower court had deemed legal. a. Common Law convicts b. MPC 2.04(3)(b) would be exculpatory. g. Mistake of non-criminal law i. MPC: Can be treated as a mistake of fact if it negates a mens rea element of a specific intent crime. (Note: 2.02(9) only applies to criminal laws) ii. Long v. State p. 215: A mistake of law does not negate common law general intent, but an honest and reasonable mistake of fact may.
1. D and Minister asked D's attorney many times if his divorce was valid, this was still
2. Common law convicts in this case because it was general intent and bad attorney isn't a reasonable mistake, but MPC would have acquitted because D's mistake of law was a mistake of non-criminal law iii. People v. Bray (p. 215): status as a convicted felon (given confusing law regarding prior conviction) is treated as a non-criminal mistake of law in cases dealing with trial for felon in possession of a concealable firearm (like MPC)
1. Note: mistake regarding legality of carrying a firearm is not available iv. See also Morissette v. US under regulatory offenses
4. Intoxication a. Common Law Intoxication i. Voluntary intoxication is a reckless act
1. Always inculpatory toward general intent crimes
2. P can prove unreasonableness merely by proving ingestion of drugs because taking intoxicating oneself is not a reasonable act (i.e. prove recklessness via proving intoxication)
3. DPP v. Majewski (p. 220): the act of taking alcohol supplies the mens rea for general intent crimes (it is no excuse because intoxication is sufficiently reckless) b. MPC 2.08 i. When the mens rea is recklessness, intoxication is inculpatory. ii. Unawareness of the risk due to self-induced intoxication is not a defense iii. Note a mental disease (4.01) unless it is pathological (McNaughton Test) c. Intoxication is sometimes exculpatory toward purpose and knowledge (specific intent under Common Law i. CA rule: Exculpatory toward knowledge and purpose if D can use his intoxication to show he acted without knowledge of or purpose toward a required element. ii. OH rule: Intoxication negates purpose only if it negates your capacity to act with purpose iii. VA rule: D is treated as sober; jury is asked to consider hypothetical sober D and asked if that D would have had knowledge or purpose. iv. Under any rule, D can still be shown to have purpose or knowledge even if intoxicated. It is never automatically exculpatory. d. Public Policy i. We have defined intoxication as reckless even though R usually requires conscious disregard of risk because we assume people consciously drink to misbehave ii. We don't want to encourage drunkenness and therefore we don't treat them with less culpability than sober people iii. Intoxication is inculpatory toward lesser mens rea requirements, but exculpatory toward the more serious ones.
1. This is because the voluntary ingestion is itself the criminal recklessness or negligence needed.
5. Regulatory Offenses
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Criminal Law Outlines.