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Criminal Law Outline

Criminal Law Outline

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Published by cpeek24
A simple criminal law outline for those of you in law school
A simple criminal law outline for those of you in law school

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Published by: cpeek24 on Sep 08, 2009
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02/07/2013

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CRIMINAL LAW OUTLINEI.General Notes on Criminal LawA.A crime is made up of an act (actus reus) and a mental state (mens rea)1.The actus reus is basically anything that is not mens reaB.Four Elements to an offense (only the first two must be present)1.The Act (actus reus)2.State of Mind (mens rea)3.Results – there must be a causal relationship between the results and 1 & 2above)4.Attendant Circumstances (no causal relationship needed)C.Steps in Analysis:1.Ascertain Elements of an Offense (see above)2.Ascertain “Defenses” – those disproving elements of a crime3.Ascertain True Defenses – Those that eliminate/excuse liability even if allthe elements of the crime are presentD.Types of Argument:1.Policy2.Analogy3.Textual (statutory language)4.Consequences5.HistoricalE.All criminal behavior is made so by statuteF.Theories of Punishment:1.Deterrancea)general – discourages others from committing an offenseb)specific – criminal is incapacitated from further criminal activity; also,he may be deterred from repeat behavior on release.2.Retribution / Punishment3.Rehabilitation4. Condemnation (of a given behavior)G.Lesser Included Offenses1.If a crime includes all of the elements of another offense, the otheroffense is a lesser included offense. An actor cannot be convicted of both, butcharging him with the greater implicitly charges him with the lesser.a)Ex.: Robbery is larceny with force or threat of force; thus, larceny is alesser included offense of robbery. An actor charged with robbery can beconvicted of either, but not both.2.If crimes have some of the same elements but each has unique elements aswell, then an actor must be charged separately, but can be convicted of both.H.Rule of Lenity – if a statute is ambiguous, it should be construed in favorof the defendant.II.The Act Requirement (Actus Reus) – In GeneralA.The Act must be voluntary1.If an act is done while unconscious or through automatism, it is not avoluntary act.a)State v. Mercer – Mercer shot his wife while “unconscious” & was thus notguilty because there was no voluntary act2.Similarly, there is no criminal liability for the following because they donot meet the voluntary requirement:a)reflexive/convulsive actsb)acts that the actor did not consciously determine(1)ex. A shoves B into C; no liability to B3.A “crime” based on status is generally not voluntary, and thus not criminala)Robinson v. California – Court overturns law making narcotic addiction (notusage) criminal behavior.B.Omissions of an Act
 
1.A failure to act is generally not criminal2.The exception is a where the actor (with the requisite mens rea) breaches aknown duty that exists due to:a)Contract(1)Commonwealth v. Pestinikas – Actors let old man wither and die afteragreeing to care for him. They are found liable.b)Statute (e.g., failure to file taxes)c)Common Lawd)A relationship that creates a duty (i.e., parent-child)e)Assumption of Care – If you start helping someone, you create a duty tofinishf)Creation of Peril – If you put someone in danger, you have a duty to helpthem.3.The key question is: Is there a duty owed by the actor?a)If an actor is unaware a duty has arisen, he is not liableb)Also, it must be possible for the actor to perform the duty.III.The Act – Specific OffensesA.Property Crimes1.Larceny (a trespassory taking & carrying away of another’s personal propertywith the intent to steal)a)Elements:(1)A taking(2)by trespass(3)and carrying away(4)of the tangible personal property of another(5)with the intent to stealb)What constitutes a “trespassory taking?”(1)The consent of the owner is the key factor(a)Treating merchandise in a manner inconsistent with how an ordinary customerwould creates a trespass.(i)Hiding merchandise in clothes or a briefcase, or wearing unpurchased clothesdespite not having yet left the store is trespassory (People v. Olivo, People v.Gasparik, People v. Spatzier)(ii)i.e, would the owner consent to the above activities?(b)The owner retains constructive possession – that is, custody does not equalpossession.(c)“Larceny by Trick” – If the actor gets consent for his possession by amisrepresentation, the consent is not valid.(i)This is not embezzlement – there is no trust relationship involved.(ii)This is not false pretenses – since possession, not title, is involved.c)The “carrying awaycan be very slight.2.Embezzlement – wrongful (fraudulent) conversion of property of anotherplaced in the actor’s care to a use not intended by the owner.a)The key difference between embezzlement & larceny is that for embezzlementto occur, there must be a trust relationship involved. (Embezzlement vs. “Larcenyby Trick”)(1)That is, for larceny, the actor can have mere custody, but not possession.For embezzlement, the actor has actual possession. (Recall custody v. possessionunder “trespassory taking,” supra.)(2)In “Larceny by Trick” there is fraud to induce consent to possess. Forembezzlement, the consent for possession is valid, but the consent for theconversion is invalid.(3)Historical note – Embezzlement was created by statute to close a loophole incommon-law larceny.b)There is no “taking” since the actor is already in possession of theproperty. The offense occurs when the actor converts the property.(1)i.e., did the actor have the right to possess the property when theconversion occurred?
 
3.False Pretenses – the obtaining of title to another’s property with theintent to deprive the owner through false statements of material fact whichinduces the owner to pass title.a)False Statements of Material Fact(1)The statements must be false – if the actor believes he is lying, but turnsout to be telling the truth, then there is no liabililty.(2)The actor must know the statements are false, and must intent to defraud.(3)The victim must rely on the statements(4)“Puffing” by salesmen does not count as a false statement for purposes ofthis offense. Also, promises or predictions are not sufficient for this offense.b)False Pretenses Distinguished from “Larceny by Trick(1)The key is title(2)If deception is used to get possession of an item, then it is larceny bytrick. If the deception is used to get title, then it is false pretenses.c)Other distinctions: It is not ordinary larceny because there is notrespassory taking; it is not embezzlement because there is no trust relationshipinvolved.4.THEFT – TEXAS PENAL CODE Consolidation of Offenses § 31.02, § 31.03a)Each of the above offenses (Larceny, Embezzlement, and False Pretenses) aswell as shoplifting, theft by false pretext, swindling, extortion (see infra.),and several others, have been consolidated into one offense, theft. § 31.02.b)Theft = an unlawful appropriation of property with intent to deprive owner.§ 31.03 (a)(1)appropriation is unlawful if it is “without the owner’s effective consent” §31.03 (b) (1) (2 & 3 list other instances)(2)“effective consent” – consent is not effective if: 31.01 (3))(a)induced by deception or coercion(b)given by a person known to not be legally authorized by the owner(c)given by someone known to be unable to make reasonable decisions (youth,mental defect, intoxication)(3)“deprivemeans: 31.01 (2))(a)to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a timethat most of the value/enjoyment is lost to the owner.(b)to restore property only on payment of reward or other compensation (i.e.,extortion)(c)to dispose of property in such a way that makes recovery of the propertyunlikely.(4)Other definitions: “Appropriateincludes both title and possession(eliminating the distinction between “larceny by trick” and false pretenses);“Property” includes real, personal, and intangible property (eliminating thepersonal property requirement for larceny)5.Robbery – larceny with the use or threat of force.a)Larceny is a “lesser included offense” of robbery; see notes on lesserincluded offenses, supra.b)The key to robbery is: When is the taking complete?(1)If the actor uses the force after the taking is complete, then there is norobbery(a)i.e., was the force used for the taking or for the escape?(2)Courts have held that exercising “dominion and control” over the propertyestablishes a complete taking.(a)Thus, an actor who had stuffed money into his pockets but was discovered andhad to push his way past the owner to escape was guilty of robbery because theowner, although she did not witness the taking, prevented the actor fromexercising ‘dominion and control’ by blocking the exit. State v. Long(b)Similarly, boys who stole a bottle of liquor, fled the store, and later hitthe owner in an attempt to return the bottle were not guilty of robbery since thetaking was complete when they successfully fled the store. State v. Arltc)How much force is required?

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