28 terms

Crim Law Midterm (Mens Rea)


Terms in this set (...)

Rationale of the Mens Rea Requirement: Utilitarian Argument
A person who commits the actus reus of an offense without a mens rea is not dangerous, could not have been deterred, and is not in need of reform, therefore, their punishment would be counterutilitarian.
Rationale of the Mens Rea Requirement: Retributive Argument
The mens rea requirement is solidly supported by the retributive principle of just deserts. A person who commits the actus reus of an offense in a morally innocent manner (i.e. accidentally) does not deserve to be punished, as he did not choose to act unlawfully.
MPC: "Purposely"
A person acts "purposely" with respect to a particular element if it is his "conscious object" to engage in the particular conduct in question, or to cause the particular result in question.
MPC: "Knowingly"
Subjective awareness to a practical certainty that his conduct will cause the result.
MPC: "Recklessly"
∆ had knowledge of a risk that the material element of an offense exists or will result from his conduct, but still chose to act. Risk is substantial and justifiable. Conduct is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor's situation.
MPC: "Negligently"
∆ should have had had knowledge of a risk that the material element of an offense exists or will result from his conduct (reasonable person standard). Risk is substantial and justifiable. Conduct is a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor's situation.
Regina v. Cunningham
(Gas meter theft - T.Ct.'s instruction of "malice" as "wickedness" was not proper)
Principle: Mere negligence, or an inference from the situation that the ∆ should have known that the harm was a possibility, is not enough to support a conviction for a crime that requires malice in its definition.
Regina v. Faulkner
(Rum thief sets ship on fire)
Rule: For each crime which requires as an element 'malice,' the element of 'malice' must be demonstrated separately for that crime.
- e.g. Stealing Rum and setting fire to a ship
US v. Jewell
(The willfully ignorant drug smuggler)
- Test for when to use Jewell Instruction: (1) ∆ was subjectively aware of high probability of illegal conduct (2) ∆ purposely contrived to avoid learning of illegal conduct.
Jewell Instruction: If ∆ was not actually aware that there was marijuana in the vehicle...his ignorance in that regard was solely and entirely a result of his having made a conscious purpose...to avoid learning the truth.
US v. Giovannetti
(Housing Gamblers)
- Clarification of "purposely contrived":
- Ostrich instruction is designed for cases in which there is evidence that the ∆, knowing or strongly suspecting that he is involved in shady dealings, takes steps to make sure that he does not acquire full or exact knowledge of the nature and extent of those dealings.
- Not for cases where ∆ does not act to avoid learning the truth.
US v. Sanchez-Roblez
(Drove across the border in borrowed car full of marijuana)
- Jewell Instruction improperly given: no proof she intentionally contrived not to find the drugs or that she even knew with a high probability of their existence.
State v. Hazelwood
(Oil Spill) Criminal Negligence > Civil Negligence

Difference from Civil: Criminal negligence requires a greater risk, so as to constitute a gross deviation form the standard of care a reasonable person would observe.
- Justify punishment rather than merely damages
Santillanes v. New Mexico
(Negligent Knife Uncle) Criminal Negligence ≠ Civil Negligence

-The crime should reflect a mental state that warrants punishment.
-Unless specifically stated negligence in a criminal statute is criminal negligence not civil negligence.
US v. Balint
(∆s were selling opium and coca derivatives without a permit, demurred on the grounds that the statute did not include a mens rea element (i.e. that they "know" they were selling illegal drugs))

- Court held that strict liability statutes may exist in the criminal law, particularly in the pursuit of some social betterment (police powers)
US v. Dotterweich
(Misbranded dangerous drugs)

Balancing Act: Consumers can't protect themselves, but manufacturers can protect consumers. Thus, manufacturers should have the burden.
Morisette v. US
(∆ Honestly, and reasonably believed that the bomb casings were abandoned. Statute imposed strict liability for "knowing conversion" of government property.)

Omission of intent from a statute does not eliminate that element from the crime.
Basic Rule on Affirmative Mens Rea Defenses
Ignorance or mistake of fact or law is a defense when it negates the existence of a mental state essential to the crime charged.
Regina v. Prince
(Underage girl lied about age, was take by ∆ out of possession & against the will of parents)
Majority - Moral Wrong Doctrine
Dissent - Lesser Crime Doctrine
Moral Wrong Doctrine
Doctrine provides that there should be no exculpation for a mistake where, if the facts had been as the actor believed them to be, her conduct would be immoral albeit legal. By knowingly committing a morally wrong act, an actor assumes the risk that the facts are not as she believed them to be, i.e., that her facts are not just morally wrong but also legally wrong.
Lesser Crime Doctrine
-When you commit a crime, you run the risk of being responsible for whatever else was a foreseeable result of the crime you are committing.
-Can be convicted of the greater crime despite only having a mens rea for the lesser crime.
People v. Olsen
(Strict liability standard based on moral wrong doctrine for sex with minor)

"A mistake of fact only to the gravity of an offense cannot shield deliberate offenders from the full consequences of the wrong act actually committed."

Policy: Court determined there was a strong public policy concern to protect children under 14 and that the legislative intent behind the statute would not be served by allowing mistake of age as a defense.
Mistake of Law
Mistake of law is only a defense if (1) there was not reasonable notice and he didn't know; or (2) he acts in reasonable reliance upon a legitimate and reasonable source of law.
People v. Marrero
(Fed. Corrections officer cannot possess guns without a license)

Principle: a ∆'s personal misunderstanding of a statute (that is not later deemed erroneous) does not excuse a criminal offense.
Lambert v. California
(Fair notice as a defense to a statute violation - felon registry violation)

Rule: Unless the State demonstrates (1) actual knowledge or (2) proof of probability of such knowledge (sufficient notice) of the statute in question, a conviction cannot stand as it violates the right to notice under the Due Process clause.

-If facts would trigger reasonable person to inquire, or inform them that they should be on notice, this rule does not apply.
State v. Leavitt
(To convicted felon: "you can't have guns for one year" should have said "and the rest of your life")

Due process, however, precluded the conviction, because ∆ was acting under insufficient legal advice given by a legitimate source (sentencing judge).
US v. Wilson
(Gov't says no guns allowed when you beat your wife - federal statute (not mentioned by state judge) automatically made firearms possession unlawful when an order of protection was filed against him)

Majority: "a 'knowing' violation of the statute only requires proof of knowledge by the ∆ of the facts that constitute the offense"

Minority: (Posner)Culpability should be read in the present case to require not only knowing possession, but knowledge (or notice) that possession is unlawful: ∆ could not have reasonably suspected his conduct was a crime or even a civil wrong. This statute is obscure, and not likely to be intuited.
Argument in favor of Cultural Defense
The argument in favor of a defense in these cases is that it will advance two desirable ends consistent with the broader goals of liberal society and the criminal law: (1) the achievement of individualized justice for ∆; and (2) a commitment to cultural pluralism

Policy - if they do not believe they are committing a crime there is no rehabilitation needed (no subjective blame). consistent with utilitarianism
Argument against Cultural Defense
The argument against a defense is that in these cases the victims are denied the protection of criminal law because assailants generally go free, immediately or in a short period of time. Adopting this discriminatory standard defeats the deterrent effect of the law, and could be expanded (if it is precedent) to broader applications. This is contrary to the goal of expanding legal protection to the least powerful minorities.

Policy - not consistent with retributivism. The act is blameworthy.