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Mark, an expert swimmer, is lying on the beach and sees a young girl, unrelated to him, struggling to stay afloat and crying for help. Mark disregards her cries, and she drowns. Is Mark criminally liable? The answer is no, for although we might agree that Mark had a strong moral obligation to attempt to save the child, there was no legal obligation to do so.
The Court declared unconstitutional a California statute that made it an offense for a person “to be addicted to the use of narcotics.”
The Court said: “We hold that a state law which imprisons a person thus afflicted as a criminal, even though he has never touched any narcotic drug within the State or been guilty of any irregular behavior there, inflicts a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Ordinance Invalidated in Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville (1972)
“ Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants.…”
A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists.
A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance which is defined by statute as an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists.
Mens Rea Elements of Criminal Homicide in Tennessee
First-degree murder: “the premeditated and intentional killing of another”
Second-degree murder: “a knowing killing of another”
Voluntary manslaughter: “the intentional or knowing killing of another in a state of passion produced by adequate provocation…”
Reckless homicide: the “ reckless killing of another”
Criminally negligent homicide: “criminally negligent conduct which results in death”
In later stages of the English law, it became a statutory offense for a man to have carnal knowledge of a female child less than ten years of age with or without the child’s consent. This offense came to be known as statutory rape.
Statutory rape laws are now gender-neutral in most states, and some impose penalties only if there is at least a two to five-year disparity between the ages of the perpetrator and the underage party.
A few states have allowed a defendant to defend against a charge of statutory rape on the basis that he or she was mistaken about the victim’s age, but most hold the defendant strictly liable even if he or she made a reasonable inquiry in good faith to determine the victim’s age.
Morissette v. United States (U.S. Sup. Ct., 1952)
The defendant was convicted of violating federal law by taking some old bomb casings from a government bombing range.
At trial, the district court refused to instruct the jury on the issue of intent, in effect holding that the government was required to prove only the defendant’s act, not his intent, because the statute required proof of only the prohibited act.
The Supreme Court reversed Morissette’s conviction.
The Court held that the crime for which he was prosecuted was a variant of the common-law offense of larceny and that failure to include the intent requirement in the statute did not eliminate the element of intent.
The common-law distinction between principals and accessories before the fact has been largely abolished, but the concept of accessory after the fact as a separate offense has been retained by many jurisdictions.
Modern statutes view an accessory after the fact as less culpable than someone who plans, assists, or commits a crime.
Thus, statutes generally define being an accessory after the fact as a separate offense and provide for a less severe punishment.
Mississippi Code § 97-1-3. Accessories before the fact.
“ Every person who shall be an accessory to any felony, before the fact, shall be deemed and considered a principal, and shall be indicted and punished as such; and this whether the principal have been previously convicted or not.”
Mississippi Code § 97-1-5. Accessories after the fact.
“ Every person who shall be convicted of having concealed, received, or relieved any felon, or having aided or assisted any felon, knowing that such person had committed a felony, with intent to enable such felon to escape or to avoid arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, after the commission of such felony, on conviction thereof shall be imprisoned in the penitentiary not exceeding five years, or in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or by both… ”
(a) A person is an accessory after the fact who, after the commission of a felony, with knowledge or reasonable ground to believe that the offender has committed the felony, and with the intent to hinder the arrest, trial, conviction or punishment of the offender:
(1) Harbors or conceals the offender;
(2) Provides or aids in providing the offender with any means of avoiding arrest, trial, conviction or punishment; or
(3) Warns the offender of impending apprehension or discovery. …