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CCJS230 Chapter 3 Book NotesThe Criminal ActThe First Principle of Criminal Liability- Criminal Liability: “conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably inflicts or threatens substantial harm to individual or public interests”- Is there criminal conduct?- Is the conduct justified?- Is the conduct excused?The Elements of Criminal Liability- Elements of a crime: to convict, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:- Criminal Act (actus reus)o The requirement that all crimes have to include a voluntary criminal act, which is the physical element and the first principle of criminal liability- Criminal intent (mens rea)o Criminal intent, the mental element in the crime- Concurrenceo The principle of criminal liability that requires that a criminal intent has to trigger the criminal act- Attendant Circumstances- Bad Result (causing a criminal harm)- Conduct Crimes: requiring a criminal act triggered by criminal intent- Criminal Act: voluntary bodily movements- Criminal Conduct: criminal act triggered by mens rea- Attendant Circumstances Element: a “circumstance” connected to an act, an intent, and/or a bad result- Ex: Driving while Intoxicated- Result Crimes include five elements:- A voluntary act- The mental element- Circumstantial elements- Causation- Criminal harmThe Criminal Act (Actus Reus): The First Principle of Liability- Problems with Punishing the State of Mind- It’s impossible to prove a mental attitude by itself- A mental attitude by itself doesn’t hurt anybody—only conduct is against criminal law- Hard to separate daydreaming and fantasy from intent- Manifest Criminality: the requirement that mental attitudes have to turn into deeds for a “crime” to be committed- The Voluntary Act Requirement- Why do only voluntary acts qualify as criminal acts?o Criminal law punishes peopleo We can only punish people we can blameo We can only blame people who are responsible for their actso People are responsible only for their voluntary acts- One-Voluntary-Act-Is-Enough Rule: conduct that includes a voluntary act satisfies the voluntary act requirement- Automatism: unconscious bodily movements (during sleepwalking and seizures)o Kinds of Defenses: Fault-Based Defenses: defenses based on creating a reasonable doubt about the prosecutions proof of a voluntary act Affirmative Defenses of Excuse: defenses of excuse for criminal liability, which take place after the prosecution has proved the defendants criminal conductState v. Burrell 609 A.2d 751 (1992)- Appealed from Hillsborough County- Convicted of manslaughter after a jury trial in the Superior Court- Defendant, Burrell bought drank with a minor and played Russian roulette with the minor and the victim. Defendant and minor stole the guns from the victim’s house, the victim tried to stop them. The victim returned with a shotgun, but before the minor could do anything else, the defendant shot the victim to death - Defendant testified that the shooting did not occur when the victim threatened him, the trial court made an error because it did not instruct the jury that the defendant was guilty only if the jury found that his act of pulling the trigger was voluntary- Court affirmed the conviction because there was no requirement that the conduct included the last act prior to the moment of harmKing v. Cogdon (Morris 1951)- Previous dreams of spiders crawling over her daughter, slept walk into her daughters room and clawed them off her face and woke her daughter up- Dreamt that the war was all around the house, and that soldiers were on top of her daughter, and struck her daughter with an axe on the head twice- Not psychotic, ended up being acquittedPeople v. Decina 138 N.E.2d 799 (1956)- Defendant struck and killed a number of children after suffering a seizure while driving—charged with violating N.Y. Penal Law- Defendant argued that his actions were not sufficiently culpable to violate theLaw, and that the physicians testimony should have been inadmissible- Court first was against him, and that his conduct fell within the statute’s requirements that he exhibit a disregard for the consequences from his actions, but then reversed their judgment because the physician’s testimony at trial was inadmissible- Status: the character or condition of a person or thingOmissions as Criminal Acts- Criminal Omission: the failure to act when there’s a legal duty to act- Failure to Report: not reporting something the law requires you to report (ex: reporting an accident, child abuse, failure to tell sexual partners of a positive HIV status)- Failure to intervene: not actively preventing or interrupting injuries and death to persons or damage and destruction of property- Only criminal omissions if defendants had a legal duty to it, not a moral dutyo A duty created by a statute, contract, or special relationship, and enforceable by lawo “Good Samaritan” Doctrine: imposes a legal duty to help or call for help for imperiled strangerso American Bystander Rule: there’s no legal duty to rescue or summon help for someone who’s in danger, even if the bystander risks nothing by helpingCommonwealth v. Pestinikas (617 A.2d 1339 1992)- Walter and Helen Pestinikas were convicted of third degree murder sentenced to serve not less than five years or more than ten years in prison - Defendants appealed their conviction for murder - Court affirmed their verdict because there was evidence that the victim’s death had been caused by the defendants failure to provide the food and medical care as they agreed to do by oral contractPossession as a Criminal Act- Legal Fiction: pretending something is a fact when it’s not, if there’s a good reason for the pretense- Ex: Air pistols, body vests, burglary tools, drug paraphernalia, drugs, eavesdropping devices, fireworks, gambling devices, graffiti instruments, toy guns- Actual Possession: physical control of banned items on my person (ex: marijuana in my pocket)- Constructive Possession: Banned items not on my person but in places I control, for ex, in my car or apartment- Knowing Possession: items possessors are aware is either on their person or in places they control- Mere Possession: items you posses but you don’t know what they areMiller v. State (6 S.W.3d 812 1999)- Appellant sought review of the judgment which convicted him of possession of cocaine and marijuana after it denied appellant’s motion for a directed verdict- Rear seat passenger in his friends car when


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