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CCJS100 Chapter 3: Criminal Justice and the Rule of LawFoundations of Criminal Law- In a democracy, laws are tools that prevent government officials from seizingtoo much power or using power improperly- Legal responsibility: the accountability of an individual for a crime because ofthe perpetrators characteristics and the circumstances of the illegal act- Civil law: law regulating the relationships between or among individuals, usually involving property, contracts, or business disputes- Criminal law: punishing people for damage they have done to society- Substantive criminal law: law that defines acts that are subject to punishment and specifies the punishments for such offenses- “Penal code”, answers the question, “what is illegal?”- Written by elected officials in congress, state legislatures, and city councils- Procedural criminal law: law defining the procedures that criminal justice officials must follow in enforcement, adjudication, and corrections- Protects constitutional rights to defendants- Defined by legislatures, US Supreme Court, and state supreme courts- How will bail be set and what kind of preliminary hearing will take place before a trialSubstantive Criminal Law- Definitions and Classifications of Criminal Laws- Felonies: serious crimes usually carrying a penalty of death or of incarceration for more than one year in prison- Misdemeanors: offenses less serious than felonies and usually punishable by incarceration of no more than one year in jail, probation, or intermediate sanctions- Civil infractions: minor offenses that are typically punishable by small fines and that produce no criminal record for the offender- Felonies and misdemeanors are subdividedo Third degree felonies lead to shorter sentences than first degreeo Can also have petty offenses, which lead to just a fine- Legislatures do not necessarily define categories of crimes according to idealistic assessments of the seriousness of the crime. Due to budget cuts, they tend to redefine specific nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors to lessen the amount that go to jail- Model Penal Codeo American Law Institute created model definitions of crimes which help states organize and standardize their individual criminal statutes - Classification of criminal acts becomes complicated when statutes divide related acts, such as taking a persons life, into different offenseso Ex: Criminal Homicide is divided into degrees of murder and voluntary or involuntary manslaughtero Some states also create new categories within law- Elements of a Crime- The act, state of mind, and attendant circumstances- Inchoate (Incomplete) Offenses: conduct that is criminal even though the harm that the law seeks to prevent has not been done but merely planned or attemptedo Ex: hiring a hitman, planning a murder, etc.- Seven Principles of Criminal Law- Legality: there must be a law that defines the specific action as a crimeo Ex post facto laws: laws written and applied after the crime hasbeen committed (Illegal), but allowed to prosecute future crimes under that law- Actus Reus: for a crime to occur there must be an act of either commission or omission by the accused- Causation: there must be a causal relationship between an act and the harm suffered- Harm: an act must cause harm to some legally protected value (person, property, object)- Concurrence: the intent and the act must be present at the same timeo Ex: Joe is planning to murder Bill. He takes a whole day planning this, but while driving home from work he accidentally hits a jogger who happened to be Bill. Although Joeplanned to kill Bill, he is not guilty of murder because the accidental killing was not connected to Joe’s intent to carry out a killing- Mens Rea: “guilty mind” or blameworthy state of mind, necessary for legal responsibility for a criminal offense; criminal intent, as distinguished from innocent intento Becomes problematic when dealing with an insanity case or a child o Certain level of intent must be presento Exception: strict liability offenses which pressure the business owners to make sure that their employees obey regulations designed to protect the health and safety of the public- Punishment: there must be a provision in the law calling for punishment of those found guilty of violating the law; enforced by government and may carry social stigma, a criminal record, loss of freedom, and loss of rights- Defenses Against Criminal Charges- Justification Defenseso Focuses on the act and whether it was socially acceptable under the circumstanceso Actions that are based on self-defense or necessity in which theindividual reasonably felt obligated to cause harm, but the actions were those that are recognized and accepted by societyas essential to the individual’s self-preservationo Self-Defense: a person who feels that he or she is in immediate danger of being harmed by another person may ward off the attack in self-defenseo The level of force used in self-defense cannot exceed the person’s reasonable perception of the threat (ex: shoot a robber who is holding a gun to your head, not someone trespassing and trying to escape)o Necessity: Used when people break the law in order to save themselves or prevent some greater harm (ex: running a red light to take someone in pain to the hospital)- Excuse Defenseso Focus on the actor and whether the actor fulfilled the elements required for being held responsible under a criminal statuteo Defenses that under specific circumstances either eliminate (insanity) or diminish (intoxication) criminal responsibility because the individual did not posses the knowledge, state of mind, or intent required for a criminal convictiono Duress (Coercion): arises when someone commits a crime because he or she is coerced by another person; Courts are not willing to accept this defense if people do not try to escape from the situationo Entrapment: used to show lack of intent; government agents have induced the person to commit the offense; can be used when the police have acted so as to induce the criminal acto Infancy: based on the recognition that young children do not yet have the capacity to think about and understand appropriate behavior and the consequences of their actions Children ages 7-14 are not liable for their criminal acts, but some prosecutors can show their mental capacity and form mens reao Mistake of Fact: if an accused person has made a mistake on some crucial fact (ex: teenagers ask for your permission to


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UMD CCJS 100 - Chapter

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