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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Allison Voss on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to 212 at Western Illinois University taught by Lisa Schaefer in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 2 views. For similar materials see Criminal Law in Leja at Western Illinois University.
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Date Created: 10/05/16
Chapter 4 The General Principles of Criminal Liability: Mens Rea, Concurrence, Causation and Ignorance and Mistake Elements of Crime: Voluntary act (prior chapter) Mens rea—criminal intent Concurrence—requirement that criminal intent trigger the criminal act in conduct crimes; criminal conduct must cause bad result in bad result crimes Causation o Criminal act must be both the cause in fact and the legal cause of the harm Bad Result Criminal Intent Mens Rea: Most serious crimes require a mental element called mens rea (criminal intent) Required because of culpability or blameworthiness Most states and the Federal government follow common law principles about mens rea Mens rea is not one level of intent, it comprises a range of intent—generally broken down by the degree of blameworthiness Ancient requirement Complex o Difficult to prove in court o Difficult to grasp and define in legislation Several mental attitudes that range across spectrum Different mental attitudes may apply to different elements of the crime Mens rea is different than motive o Ex. Man kills wife for money Mens rea= intent to kill Motive= get money Motive is something that causes a person to act and is “irrelevant” to criminal liability Motive may be important in establishing a defense Motive is usually not an element of a crime Motive is also important in some defenses Criminal Intent: Subjective fault—fault that requires a bad mind in the criminal actor, i.e. purposeful, knowingly, recklessly Objective Fault—fault that requires no bad mind in the actor if behavior is seen as unreasonable, i.e. “should have known” Strict Liability: Criminal liability that does not require either subjective or objective fault o Examples: DUI/OWI, speeding, offenses based on age of the victim General and Specific Intent: General intent: the intent to commit the criminal act defined in the statute o Courts don’t always define general intent the same way Specific intent: intent to cause the result (in bad result crimes) o Generally has subjective fault component o Deliberate, conscious, intended, planned, premeditated…etc. General intent “plus”: intent to commit the criminal act plus some mental element o most common definition of specific intent Ex. Burglary is specific intent. Burglar has to intend to break and enter and has to intend to commit some crime while inside Proving “State of Mind”: Confessions are the only direct evidence of mental attitude Proof of intent usually rests on indirect, circumstantial evidence It is common in everyday life to infer people’s intent from what they do Iowa Jury Instr. 200.2: Specific Intent Definition And Proof. "Specific intent" means not only being aware of doing an act and doing it voluntarily, but in addition, doing it with a specific purpose in mind. Because determining the defendant's specific intent requires you to decide what [he] [she] was thinking when an act was done, it is seldom capable of direct proof. Therefore, you should consider the facts and circumstances surrounding the act to determine the defendant's specific intent. You may, but are not required to, conclude a person intends the natural results of [his] [her] acts. Iowa Jury Instr. 200.1: General Criminal Intent Definition And Proof. To commit a crime a person must intend to do an act which is against the law. While it is not necessary that a person knows the act is against the law, it is necessary that the person was aware [he] [she] was doing the act and [he] [she] did it voluntarily, not by mistake or accident. You may, but are not required to, conclude a person intends the natural results of [his] [her] acts. Model Penal Code Mental States: Purposefully Knowingly Recklessly Negligently Product of debate Ranked according to degree of culpability Purposefully: Actor’s conscious object is to engage in conduct or cause a result Most blameworthy mental state To do something on purpose Having conscious object to commit the crime, cause the result Knowingly: Actor is aware that his conduct is of a certain nature or that a circumstance exists such that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause a bad result Do not need to have a conscious objective to achieve that result o Example: surgeon removing cancerous uterus. Knows/practically certain the surgery will kill the fetus (but that’s not her intent) Recklessly: Actor consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct (subjective knowledge of the risk) Disregarding the risk has to be a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise under the circumstances Negligently: Actor should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct (objective knowledge of the risk) Risk must be a nature and degree that actor’s failure to be aware of the risk…. involves a gross deviation from the standard of care observed by a reasonable person in the actor’s circumstance Liability Without FaultStrict Liability: Liability without fault—based on the voluntary act alone U.S. Supreme Court has upheld power of legislatures to make strict liability crimes o To protect public health and safety o Make clear they are imposing liability without fault Support: o Strong public interest in protecting public health and safety. These laws arose out of industrial revolution and aimed at protecting workers and citizens from ills of manufacturing, mining, commerce, etc. o Penalty is usually (not always, however) mild Criticism: o Too easy to expand strict liability beyond offenses that endanger the public o It “does no good” to punish people who don’t act purposefully, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently o Criminal law without blameworthiness loses its appeal as a moral code Concurrence: Some mental fault has to trigger the conduct (conduct crimes) Some mental fault has to trigger the conduct and the cause (in bad result crimes) Rarely an issue in cases Causation: Holding an actor accountable for the results of conduct Applies only to bad result crimes Distinguish between two types of causation—both are necessary in order to prove criminal liability o Factual cause (aka “but for” causation, actual causation, “except for” causation o Legal cause (aka proximate cause) Factual Cause: Did the actor set into motion a chain of events that ended in the result? If so, they are a factual cause of the result. But for the actors conduct, the result would not have occurred. MPC: Conduct is the cause of a result when it is an antecedent but for which the result in question would not have occurred. Necessary to prove that actor was factual cause of the harm in order to show criminal liaiblity. BUT, it is not sufficient to prove criminal liability. Taken to logical extreme, almost anything can be the factual cause of something if you go back far enough….E.g., “had his mother not given birth, the defendant would not have been in the place to hit the victim.” Legal “Proximate” Cause: Necessary to prove that defendant is legal cause, as well as factual case, of harm in order to show criminal liability Legal cause asks whether it is fair to hold defendant responsible for the harm, i.e. is the defendant’s actions so far removed from the harm, it would be unfair to hold him responsible? Factors in the fairness determination include: o Whether the result was foreseeable from the conduct o Whether some other factor contributed to the harm (Intervening harm) o Whether the intervening factor was a natural occurrence? (Natural occurrences don’t generally break off liability) When an intervening cause cuts off liability (because it is more fair to attribute the harm to it) it is said to be a superseding cause Ignorance and Mistake: Mistake is a defense when it negates the mens rea Characterized as either o An affirmative defense of excuse o A failure of proof defense (can’t prove the requisite mental state) MPC mistake matters when it prevents the formation of a mental attitude required by a criminal statute (refer to statute) Mistake cannot negate criminal liability for strict liability crimes (because they do not require mens rea)
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