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Criminal Law Outline

Updated Criminal Law Outline Notes

Criminal Law Outlines

Criminal Law

Approximately 19 pages

Includes crimes and constitutional law limitations....

The following is a more accessible 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 Outline

  1. Sources of Criminal Law

    1. English common law

    2. Social morals

    3. Modern legislation

    4. Model penal code

  2. Proving guilt at a trial

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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”

  3. Purposes of Punishment

    1. Utilitarian

      1. Deterrence: general and specific

      2. Isolation/protection

      3. Rehabilitation

        1. People v. Du

    2. Retributivism

      1. An ‘eye for an eye’

Constitutional Limits on Criminal Law

  1. First amendment: Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech.

  2. Second amendment: the right of the people to keep and bear arms

  3. Fourth amendment: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures

  4. Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment [shall not be] inflicted

  5. Fourteenth Amendment: Due Process Clause -> states not only guarantee procedural fairness to criminal defendants, but also to respect substantive principles of justice

Statutory Analysis

  1. Due process

    1. Burden of proof - on the govt in criminal cases

    2. Standard of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt

  2. Notice

    1. 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 Constitution.

    2. Void for Vagueness Doctrine

      1. Definiteness

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

      3. Inhibits exercise of 1st amendment rights

    3. 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

  3. Principle of legality v ex post facto (how are they different)

    1. Ex post facto applies to legislative

      1. 10th amendment

      2. No retroactive creation or expansion of crimes

    2. Principle of legality applies to judicial branch

      1. No retroactive creation or expansion of crimes

Elements of a Crime

  1. Actus Reus - Acts and Omissions

    1. The criminal act Voluntary act or failure to act w/ legal duty

    2. Failure to act: a legal duty and the failure to do so

    3. 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

        1. 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

        1. Example: lifeguard, security guard

        2. If you assume the duty you have to finish it

    4. All crimes have an actus reus, but not all crimes have a mens rea

  2. Mens Rea - State of Mind

    1. 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

        1. Knowledge of high probability

        2. 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 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.

    2. 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

        1. Intoxication can be a defense

      3. Attended circumstances

        1. Not all crimes have attended circumstances but burglary does

      4. Crimes

        1. Arson (general intent)

          1. Malicious (intentionally or recklessly)

          2. Burning

          3. Another’s dwelling

        2. Battery (general intent)

    3. Causation

      1. Actual - but for, factual

      2. Proximate - legal foreseeability

  3. Strict Liability Offenses - Generally, Two Types:

    1. Public welfare offenses - Malum Prohibitum (it’s wrong because we said so)

      1. Ex: Traffic Regulations, Building Codes, Food and Drug Regulations, Liquor Sales

    2. 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

        1. For felony murder there is no intent for the murder occurring because of the felony

        2. For statutory rape there is no intent for the age

    3. *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*


  1. In order to have causation you MUST have both elements.

  2. Actual/But For/Factual

    1. But for the action, the result would not have occurred

    2. Acceleration - both acts are causes in fact of the harm

    3. Substantial factor test - either act alone causes the harm. Each act is a cause in fact of the harm

  3. Proximate/Legal

    1. Examine foreseeability of consequence.

    2. Intervening causes - do NOT break the causal connection between the actor’s conduct and the resulting harm

      1. Ordinary negligence = intervening

    3. Superceding causes - do break the...

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