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Flashcards in Actus rea quiz COPY Deck (16):

Elements of a results crim

- Actus Reus
- Mens Reus
- Causality


Elements of a conduct crime

- Actus Reus
- Mens Reus

Exception: unless it is a "strict liability" crime in which case Mens Reus is not needed. Example: Selling to alcohol of underage persons


Martin V State

Drunken man is arrested in his home and then charged with public intoxication.

- To satisfy Actus Reus the act must be voluntary
- The voluntary requirement of the act is "presupposed" wether or not the act explicitly says so or not


Definition for voluntary act

"bodily movement performed consciously as a result of effort or determination, and includes the possession of property if the actor was aware of his physical possession or control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate it" (NYPL 15.00)


People V Decina

Person suffering from epilepsy kills pedestrians in car accident as a result of epileptic fit.
- The definition of the act is relatively fluid; depending on what you're arguing you can try to take it backwards in time



A woman dies after consuming morphine pills. The man with whom she spent the prior couple of days drinking and sleeping, and who, due to fear of his wife returning, relinquished responsibility for her to another, is charged manslaughter, but acquitted on appeal: the man’s relationship with the woman did not give rise to a legal duty to act.
An omission satisfies Actus Reus when it is accompanied by a legal duty to act
Certain relationships give rise to a legal duty to act such as marriage, parent-child, fiduciary, doctor patient.


Expo facto law

A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier.


Commonwealth V Mochan

Charged offense: defendant made phone calls and lewd comments towards a married woman.
“Intending to debauch and corrupt and further devising and intending to harass, embarrass and vilify”. Although not in the state criminal code, the code explicitly brought in any offences that were chargeable at common law.

Defense: not a chargeable crime under the Pennsylvania penal code
Holding: guilty

Absent previously defined conduct there is not crime
- common law was broad enough to define the conduct
- 1101 from the statute explicitly brought it into the code (all common law)


Lenity Doctrine

Any ambiguity in the criminal statue should be construed in favor of the defendant.


Does New York employ the Doctrine of Lenity?

No. NYPL 5.0 stipulates that the court should construe statutes in light of the legislature's intent, rather than against the state.


Keeler V Superior Court

Man “stamps” fetus out of separated pregnant wife (baby from another man is a viable fetus) is accused of murder.

Issue: is a viable fetus a human being for the purposes of the Californian statute
Holding: no. Farmers of the statute didn’t intend to include fetuses as human beings. Inclusion would be extension of the statute and constitute an ex-post facto law.

Rule: Neccessity of previous defined conduct (Same as Mochan, but with different results)


What's the difference between Mochan and Keeler?

Mochan and Keeler demonstrate the same rule, that the conduct must have been previously defined as an offense, but with different results. In Mochan, the conduct, although not defined in statute, was punishable under common law and thus brought in by the statute. In Keeler, since fetus' were deemed not to represent human being by the legislature, Keeler is acquitted of murder.


Which texts excludes types of acts from voluntary acts? What are the excluded acts?

MPC 2.01
..."The following are not voluntary acts:
1) a reflex or convulsion
2) a bodily movement during sleep unconscious or sleep
3) conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion
4) a bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor. either conscious or habitual.


5 situation which create legal duty under which an omission satisfies actus reus:

1) where statute imposes a duty
2) where one stands in a certain status relationships to another (parent-child; spousal; teacher-student)
3) where one has assumed a contractual duty to care for another
4) where one has a voluntarily assumed the care of another and so secluded the helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid
5) When a person creates a risk of harm to another (hit run cases)

Assume, unless told differently that there are no Good Samaritan laws.


Does habitual or "automatic" acts count as voluntary acts?


E.g. looking in rear view window of a car.


Barber V Superior Court

After being urged by the family, doctors disconnect a permanently vegetative state patient from life support (assisted breathing) and from hydration and nutrition systems therefore allowing the patient to die. The patient was not brain dead and therefore not defined as dead in California state law.

- This is an outcome determinative case - judges are
protecting doctors and families in these type of situations.

- acquitted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder because
Court characterizes the disconnection from the life support systems as an omissions of medical treatment rather than a voluntary act.
An omission satisfies Actus Reus only if it is accompanied by a legal duty to act
There was no legal duty to act because doctors are not required to continue treatment once it is proven ineffective in their opinion as it was in this case