Introduction to U.S. Law Introduction to and Overview of American Criminal Law:The Basic Elements, Defenses, and Constitutional Issues
Burdens of ProofBeyond a reasonable doubt Used in criminal casesClear and Convincing Evidence Used for special purposesPreponderance of the Evidence Used in most civil casesProbable Cause Used for arrest, search and seizureReasonable Suspicion Used for stops
Basic Elements of A CrimeLegality - legally proscribedActus Reus - human conductCausation - causativeSocial Harm - of a given harmConcurrence - which coincides withMens Rea - a blameworthy frame of mindPunishment - for which punishment is provided.
Legality and JurisdictionNo crime without law But whose law? A question of jurisdiction See PA Crime Codes §102There must be public respect for the law for it tofunction properly. Prohibition is excellent example of where the law didnt work because citizens didnt respect.
Actus ReusLatin (roughly) for “guilty act” Act - conscious, voluntary, and purposive behavior. See PA Crime Code §301Strict Liability Crimes Crimes where the act alone is sufficient to be in violation of law As opposed to “true crimes” which also requires “guilty mind”.Communication can be an action (inchoatecrimes)
OmissionGenerally failing to act cannot be punishedunless the law specifically creates a duty to actand the defendant has breached the duty. See PA Crime Code §302(b) (1) example – child neglect (2) example – where failure to act in accordance to duty created by contractual obligation leads to death.
Mens ReaLatin (roughly) for “guilty mind.” Complex and confusing because there could be 50 different definitions.Proving “mental state” is basically impossibleBest that can be done is to infer mental state Blameworthiness = responsibility + culpability Responsibility – free will and the three Is Culpability (see next slide)
Culpability (common law)Levels of Culpability under Common Law General Intent Specific Intent Strict Liability Intent Transferred Liability Intent Constructive Intent Scienter
Culpability (MPC)PA Crime Code §302 a person is not guilty of an offense unless he acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, as the law may require, with respect to each material element of the offense.Levels under MPC Purposely Knowingly Recklessly Negligently
CausationAn assumption that the act caused the thingbeing proscribed by criminal law is not enough.Must show a relationship between cause andeffect. Direct Cause Proximate Cause Intervening Cause Superceding CauseSee PA Crime Code §303
ConcurrenceAct + Intent + Result = Crime – DefensesPrinciple of Concurrence any act (actus reus) causing social harm must coincide, or be accompanied, with a criminal state of mind (mens rea). Normally intent comes first leading to the action.Motive must be distinguished from intent.
Defenses: failure of proofMistake of Law Rarely available, even if mistake was due to advice from attorney. Ignorance of the law excuses no one.Mistake of Fact Diminished Capacity IntoxicationSee PA Crimes Code §304
Affirmative DefensesDefensive ViolenceInsanity and Other Mental IllnessDuress, Necessity and Other Pressures on FreeWillEntrapment
Defensive ViolenceSelf-Defense must actually and reasonably believe there is imminent threat of serious harm or death. most courts hold no duty to retreat. only can use force necessary to prevent harmDefense of Others and Property Others – reasonably believed other person would have been justified to use force. Property – force necessary to avoid imminent theft or trespass.
Duress, NecessityDuress Crime committed under a threat of death or serious bodily harm. See PA Crime Code §309Necessity - Psychological pressure applied byanother Must face threat of harm Committing criminal act is only way to prevent No fault Criminal conduct involves less harm
EntrapmentSubjective Test Used in the federal system and a majority of states. Did idea for crime originate with police? Was D “predisposed” to commit the crime?Objective Test Did idea for crime originate with police? How would the average person react to offer by police? Focus is on police conduct
InsanityThe Right or Wrong Test mental disease results in failure to understand what they did or realize what they did was wrong.The Substantial Capacity Test lack substantial capacity to appreciate wrongfulness or to conform to requirements of the law. John HinkleyGuilty But Mentally Ill sent to prison, supposed to get treatment
Purpose of PunishmentRetributionIncapacitationDeterrenceRehabilitationWhich one(s) do you think is emphasized underAmerican law?
Types of PunishmentCapital PunishmentIncarcerationProbationSplit SentenceRestitutionCommunity ServiceFines
Criminal Procedure and the ConstitutionFourth Amendment Privacy, searchesFifth Amendment Privilege against self-incrimination, right to remain silent, double-jeopardy, due process, right to a grand jurySixth Amendment Right to counsel, right to speedy trial, right to jury trial, right to confront witnesses,Eight Amendment No cruel and unusual punishment
th 4 AmendmentThe right of the people to be secure in theirpersons, houses, papers, and effects, againstunreasonable searches and seizures, shall notbe violated, and no Warrants shall issue, butupon probable cause, supported by Oath oraffirmation, and particularly describing the placeto be searched, and the persons or things to beseized.
th 5 AmendmentNo person shall be held to answer for a capital,or otherwise infamous crime, unless onpresentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . .;nor shall any person be subject for the sameoffense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;nor shall be compelled in any criminal case tobe a witness against himself, nor be deprived oflife, liberty, or property, without due process oflaw . . . .
th 6 AmendmentIn all criminal prosecutions, the accused shallenjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by animpartial jury of the State and district where inthe crime shall have been committed . . . and tobe informed of the nature and cause of theaccusation; to be confronted with the witnessesagainst him; to have compulsory process forobtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have theAssistance of Counsel for his defense.
th 8 AmendmentExcessive bail shall not be required, norexcessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusualpunishments inflicted.
Corporate Criminal LiabilityNew York Central: the birth of corporate criminalliabilityNot appropriate: when crimes cannot be punished by fines—since fines are the principle means for punishing a corporation—and when the crime, by its nature cannot be committed by a corporation (e.g, rape).