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Texas Bar Exam: MBE > Criminal Law > Flashcards

Flashcards in Criminal Law Deck (69)
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1

The starting point for a crime requires _____________ and ______________.

Jurisdiction and Actus Reus

2

How is jurisdiction established in a criminal case?

The United States has the power to criminalize and to prosecute crimes that occur:

1) Anywhere in the U.S.;

2) On ships and planes; AND

3) By United States nationals abroad.

By contrast, the states can ONLY punish crimes having some CONNECTION TO THE STATE. For example:

1) Whole crime or part of the crime occurred inside the state;

2) Conduct outside the state that involved an attempt to commit a crime inside the state;

3) A CONSPIRACY to commit a crime and an overt act occurred within the state.

3

Explain "actus reus."

There is no such thing as a "though crime" (wanting or hoping to commit a crime is not in themselves a crime).

Three considerations:

1) Must be some PHYSICAL ACT in the world;

2) Act must be VOLUNTARY (not necessarily that you wanted to do it, but that you have motor control over the act;

3) The act CAN BE AN OMISSION or failure to act.

4

What omissions or failures to act can constitute "actus reus?"

Examples:

1) Failure to comply with a statutory duty (failure to file a tax return, failure to register for selective service, etc.);

2) Failure to act when there is a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP between the defendant and the victim (parents' failure to obtain medical attention for their children);

3) Voluntary assumption of a duty of care that is cast aside ("repentant rescuer");

4) Defendant causes a peril and fails to prevent the victim from being injured by the peril. The defendant MUST BE AWARE that he has MADE something dangerous (not enough to be aware that there is a danger).

5

What is the "mens rea?"

The Common Law "state of mind" requirement for a crime.

6

What are the four states of mind in the common law? Explain each.

SPECIFIC INTENT CRIMES (look for "intent to" language on the MBE) - The defendant not only committed the actus reus, but did it for the purpose of causing a special result. There are four categories of specific intent crimes:

1) First-degree murder;

2) Inchoate Crimes - "CATS" (Conspiracy, Attempt, Solicitation);

3) Assault with attempt to commit a battery;

4) Theft offenses - larceny, embezzlement, forgery, burglary, and robbery.

MALICE - Murder and Arson. Malice means that the defendant acted in a RECKLESS DISREGARD OF A HIGH RISK OF HARM occurring.

GENERAL INTENT (look for "knowingly or recklessly" language on the MBE) - Catch-all category. The defendant intends to commit an act that is in fact unlawful. The defendant does not need to be aware of the legal ramifications of the act, but he only must intend to commit the act. Generally, acts are done knowingly, recklessly, or negligently under the MPC are general intent crimes.

STRICT LIABILITY (if no intent language, consider this)- As long as the defendant voluntarily commits the actus reus, it doesn't matter what the defendant's intent was to be liable. The defendant does not need to have a particular state of mind; he must only have committed the act.

7

What is the Transferred Intent Doctrine?

When a defendant has a requisite mens rea for committing a crime directed against Victim A, but actually commits the crime against Victim B.

The court will TRANSFER the SPECIFIC INTENT that the defendant had for Victim A over to Victim B.

8

What is Vicarious Liability?

Holds a person liable for an actus reus committed by someone else. A corporation can be liable for the actions of its HIGH-LEVEL EMPLOYEES OR BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

9

What is merger in criminal law?

A defendant can be convicted of more than one crime arising out of the same act. HOWEVER, a defendant CANNOT be convicted of two crimes when the two crimes merge into one. In that case, the defendant can only be convicted of one of the crimes.

TWO CATEGORIES:

1) Lesser included offenses; AND

2) The merger of an inchoate and a completed offense.

10

Explain merger of lesser-included offenses.

Lesser Included Offense - an offense in which each of its elements appears in another offense, but the other offense has something additional.

Greater Included Offense - An offense which includes all elements of the lesser-included offense but requires something additional.

If the elements of the lesser-offense is included and merged into the greater-offense. A defendant cannot be convicted of both offenses.

The jury will be charged in figuring out if the defendant committed the greater-included offense. If they determine that he didn't, then they will determine whether he committed the lesser-included offense. Classic example of this is robbery and larceny.

11

Explain inchoate and completed offenses.

ATTEMPT - The inchoate offense of attempt merges into the complete offense if the defendant actually commits the crime. CAN be charged with attempt to commit robbery and robbery BUT CANNOT BE CONVICTED OF BOTH. Success is a "defense" to an attempt charge.

SOLICITATION - Also merges into a completed offense.

HOWEVER, CONSPIRACY AND SUBSTANTIVE OFFENSES DO NOT MERGE!!!

12

T/F - Conspiracy merges with a completed crime.

False

NEVER - One can be convicted of both conspiracy and committing the offense.

13

What were the common law capabilities of different ages?

Under 7 - never capable of committing a crime.

7 to 14 - Rebuttably presumed to be incapable of committing crimes;

At least 14 - Can be charged as adults.

14

Who is the principal in a crime?

Defendants whose acts or omissions form the actus reus of the crime. Can be more than one principal to a particular crime. Ask "who committed the actus reus that gives rise to the offense?"

15

Who are accomplices? What are they liable for?

Not a principal, but still can be held responsible for the crime actually committed by the principal.

These are people who ASSIST the principal either before or during the commission of a crime can be charged as accomplices.

MUST ACT WITH THE INTENT OF ASSISTING THE PRINCIPAL TO COMMIT THE CRIME. Bystanders, even approving ones, are NOT ACCOMPLICES.

Liable for both the planned crime AND any other crimes that occur in the COURSE OF THE CRIMINAL ACT, as long as they are FORESEEABLE.

Can also be held liable EVEN IF they can't be principals or EVEN IF the principal cannot be convicted.

16

Can a person protected by statute be an accomplice to a crime violating that statute?

NO

Think a 15 year old in a statutory rape action. 15 year-old cannot ever be charged as an accomplice.

17

Who are "accessories after the fact?"

People who assist the defendant ONLY AFTER the crime has been committed. They are guilty of a SEPARATE OFFENSE (harboring, obstruction, etc.).

18

Who are "aiders and abettors?

In addition to accomplice liability for the substantive crime, individuals who aid or abet a defendant to commit a crime may also be guilty of a SEPARATE CRIME OF CONSPIRACY if there was an AGREEMENT TO COMMIT THE CRIME AND AN OVERT ACT WAS TAKEN IN FURTHERANCE OF THAT AGREEMENT.

19

When can the mens rea be negated?

THREE CATEGORIES:

1) Mistake

2) Insanity

3) Intoxication

20

Explain Mistake.

A defendant claims that some mistake regarding either facts in the world or the state of the law that negates his mens rea and thus he cannot be convicted of a crime EVEN THOUGH HE COMMITTED THE ACTUS REUS.

21

What are mistakes of law?

Claims by the defendant that he cannot be convicted beause he thought the law was different from what it was.

IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE (generally)

EXCEPTIONS:

1) Reliance on high-level government interpretations of the law (government tells you its okay to do something);

2) Lack of notice (maybe the law changed?); and

3) Mistake of law that goes to an element of specific intent (applies ONLY to the FIAT crimes (first degree murder, inchoate crimes, attempt, and theft) or specific intent crimes. If the crime with which a defendant is charged is a specific intent crime, then a defendant can argue that his belief that his conduct was legal NEGATES that element of the offense.

NOTE: MISTAKE OF LAW CAN ALSO APPLY TO GENERAL INTENT CRIMES.

22

When does a mistake of fact negate mens rea?

Go through these steps:

1) Ask whether the crime is a strict liability crime, general intent crime, or a specific intent crime;

2) Strict liability - Mistake of fact is NEVER A DEFENSE (remember that the act must be voluntary to fall under strict liability);

3) General Intent - Mistake of fact is a defense ONLY if the mistake is REASONABLE and it goes to the criminal intent. The transferred intent doctrine means that it is never a reasonable mistake of fact to say "I thought I was committing a crime against A, when I committed it against B.";

4) Specific Intent - Mistake of fact is a defense anything the defendant ACTUALLY HELD THE MISTAKEN BELIEF, whether it was reasonable or not.

23

How is insantity determined to negate the mens rea?

FOUR DIFFERENT TESTS:

1) M'Naghten Test - Defendant either did not know the nature of the act or did not know that the act was wrong (a man thought his wife was a hat);

2) Irresistible Impulse - Defendant has a mental disease or defect that means the defendant cannot control himself;

3) Durham Rule - Defendant would not have committed the crime BUT FOR his having a mental disease or defect (defendant-friendly standard / rarely used today); and

4) Model Penal Code - Due to a mental disease or defect, the defendant did not have SUBSTANTIAL CAPACITY to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts or to conform his conduct to the law.

NOTE: All four tests require that the defendant have a mental disease or defect. Being a psychopath is not enough to constitute insanity.

24

When is intoxication a valid defense to negate the mens rea of a crime?

COVERS ALCOHOL, DRUGS, AND MEDICATIONS.

Can be voluntary or involuntary:

INVOLUNTARY INTOXICATION OCCURS WHEN A PERSON:

1) Doesn't realize that she received an intoxicating substance;

2) Is forced or coerced into ingesting a substance; OR

3) Has an unexpected or unanticipated reaction to a prescription medication.

CAN BE A VALID DEFENSE TO GENERAL INTENT, SPECIFIC INTENT, AND MALICE CRIMES when it negates the mens rea necessary for those crimes.

VOLUNTARY INTOXICATION OCCURS WHEN A PERSON INTENTIONALLY INGESTS THE SUBSTANCE, KNOWING THAT IT WAS AN INTOXICANT. This is a defense ONLY TO SPECIFIC INTENT CRIMES (FIAT), and only if it prevented the defendant from forming the mens rea. NOT A VALID DEFENSE IF THE DEFENDANT GOT DRUNK IN ORDER TO COMMIT THE CRIME (gain the courage).

25

What are the definitions and elements involving conspiracy?

COMMON LAW CONSPIRACY REQUIRES:

1) An agreement;

2) Between two or more people;

3) To commit an UNLAWFUL act.

MODERN CONSPIRACY STATUTES - add a fourth element of an OVERT ACT IN FURTHERANCE of the conspiracy.

MODEL PENAL CODE - ONLY THE DEFENDANT who actually has been charged must ACTUALLY AGREE to commit the unlawful act. The other people with whom the defendant agrees can be undercover agents, for example. The agreement can be explicit or implicit. Simply knowing a crime is going to occur and doing nothing about it does NOT turn a bystander into a co-conspirator; there MUST be an agreement.

26

T/F - A conspiracy must have an unlawful purpose.

True - If what the conspirators agree to do is not a crime, there is no conspiracy even if they think what they are doing is wrong.

27

What is an "overt act" in a conspiracy?

Can be lawful or unlawful, as long as it FURTHERS the conspiracy.

28

What is the scope of conspiracy?

At common law, each co-conspirator can be convicted both of:

1) Conspiracy, AND

2) All substantive crimes committed by any other conspirator acting in furtherance of the conspiracy.

29

What are the structures of conspiracy?

1) Chain Conspiracy - a number of steps in a narrative chain have occurred. EACH participant is liable for the substantive crimes of his co-conspirators.

2) Spoke-Hub Conspiracy - There is a central person that is dealing with many people on the periphery. The central person will be liable for all the crimes, but each of the spokes is treated as a separate crime. Therefore, they will not be liable for each other's crimes.

30

What is the effect of withdrawal from a conspiracy?

At COMMON LAW, it is IMPOSSIBLE TO WITHDRAW from a conspiracy, because the crime is completed the moment the agreement is made.

Under the FEDERAL RULE, a conspirator CAN WITHDRAW prior to the omission of any overt act by communicating her intention to withdraw to all other conspirators OR by informing law enforcement.

Under the MPC RULE, a conspirator who helps to THWART the success of a conspiracy can raise a withdrawal defense EVEN AFTER THE OVERT ACT HAS OCCURRED.

Although a defendant who tries to withdraw may remain liable for conspiracy (e.g., because notification was not timely), that defendant will not be liable for any substantive crimes committed after his withdrawal.