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FSU CJE 3110 - Chapter 6

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Chapter 6The Nature of Criminal LawAll criminal acts consist of a corpus delicit, the body of a crime. This body consists of two parts mens rea and actus rea. Mens Res means, “the guilty mind,” and refers to the mental state of the suspect. Actus rea refers to the acts or elements that make up the crime. Mens rea refers to the ability of the criminal to form criminal intent. Some people may not be able to do this, such as young kids (7-10 years old and younger), mentally retarded people, someone suffering a psychological disorder, or some elderly people. People who lack mens rea may be taken into protective custody instead of being arrested, they aren’t under arrest but are detained temporarily for their safety or the public’s safety. Actus rea is what makes up the crime; it can decide whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a minor crime with a maximum confinement of up to a year. A felony is a serious crime that constitutes more than one year in prison. What decided whether it is a misdemeanor or felony can differ based on crime classification and geographical location. An officer cannot make an arrest for a misdemeanor unless it occurs in their presence; no such rule applies for felony crimes. Police officers don’t generally have to concern themselves with mens rea what is important for them is the actus rea. The classification of crime depends on whether or not an officer can take immediate action, the type of action, and the charges the office will file. Due to the rapid progression of events in the field, officers do not have the luxury of consulting law books.Violent OffensesHomicide, assault, battery, sexual battery, robbery, and kidnapping will be included in this section.HomicideHomicide is the killing one human being by another. Two general types: lawful and unlawful.Justifiable HomicideJustifiable Homicide is the use of lethal force to prevent serious injury or death to oneself or another. Examples of this would be police officers killing an armed criminal endangering others, or a person who follows the “stand your ground law” and kills a criminal in defense against serious injury or death to themselves or others.Excusable homicideExcusable homicide is the death of a person resulting due to an accident or misfortune. Such as a hammer falling from a building and killing someone, this does not protect against civil liability.MurderStates usually divide unlawful homicide into two categories, murder and manslaughter. Murder, occurs when a criminal homicide is committed purposely or knowingly, or it is committed under reckless circumstances. Manslaughter is the appropriate charge if it occurs under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there is a reasonable explanation. The difference between the two is the element of premeditation. First degree murder involves malice aforethought, deliberation, and premeditation. Malice aforethought is the intent to commit a felony or to cause death or serious harm. Deliberation means a person has thought over the consequences and kills anyway. Premeditation implies that the person planned to carry out the killing. If the person intends to kill someone but accidentally kills the wrong target, the appropriate charge is first degree murder. ManslaughterManslaughter is the unlawful murder characterized by a lack of premeditation. Lies somewhere in the middle of first degree murder and excusable/justifiable murder but is still illegal. Manslaughter can be either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs due to an extraordinary set of circumstances where the victims provoke the offender. Usually the aggressor intends to hurt the other party but not kill them due to a state of emotional imbalance. The intense temporary loss of control and emotional imbalance is known as the heat of passion. Four conditions must be met to make up the heat of passion. First, the provocation must be reasonable. Second, the death must take place during the heat of passion. Third, there can be no chance for a “cooling off period” during the time lapse between the provocation and killing. Lastly, the suspect must have acted in the heat of passion. If any one of these conditions is missing the appropriate charge would most likely be murder. The standard for provocation is reaction of a reasonable person, what would a reasonable person do. Has to be the result of more than just taunting or verbal argument. Involuntary manslaughter is a catchall and either negligence or recklessness can produce this type of homicide. Negligence is behavior that exposes others to unnecessary risk of death or serious injury.The Felony Murder RuleThe felony-murder rule means that if a person dies during the course of a felony that is dangerous to life (robbery, burglary, sexual batter, arson, kidnapping, etc.) the suspect is responsible for that death. Another way to test this is the sine qua non test or if it wasn’t for the suspect’s actions, the person would still be alive today. An addition to this mentioned in the book is that any participant can be charged, as in the getaway drive for a bank robber who shot a killed a clerk can also be found guilty of first degree murder. Even if no one shoots the clerk and he has a heart attack and dies, they are responsible for his death and are guilty of first degree murder.Assault and BatteryThese are two separate and distinct crimes. An assault occurs when one person threatens to hurt another. Two requirements to meet this, the person must have the ability to carry out the threat, and the suspect must put the other person into fear for their well-being. There are also two types of assault. Simple Assault (misdemeanor) & Aggravated Assault (felony).The difference involves the presence or absence of a deadly weapon. Battery is a successful assault involving intentional touching or striking of a person against the person’s will with the intent to injure the person. Like assault, there are two levels of battery. Simple battery does not involve a weapon and aggravated battery does involve a weapon or an item that can be used as a weapon. Another distinction is that simple battery results in minor injury and aggravated battery results in serious bodily harm, disability or disfigurement. Sexual BatteryMany states have revised their former rape laws and replaced them with sexual battery statutes. The older rape statutes were sexist as only males could be


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