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Criminal Law Chapter 4 The General Principles of Criminal Liability: Mens Rea, Concurrence, and Causation Joel Samaha, 9th Ed.

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Presentation on theme: "Criminal Law Chapter 4 The General Principles of Criminal Liability: Mens Rea, Concurrence, and Causation Joel Samaha, 9th Ed."— Presentation transcript:

1 Criminal Law Chapter 4 The General Principles of Criminal Liability: Mens Rea, Concurrence, and Causation Joel Samaha, 9th Ed.

2 The Principle of Mens Rea The mental element, mental attitude or state of mind He who kills…without intent to kill should be acquitted, because a crime is not committed unless the intent to injure intervene; and the desire and purpose distinguish evildoing (Bracton, 1256, quoted in Sayre, 1932, 985). Western civilized nations have long looked to the wrongdoers mind to determine both the propriety and the grading of punishment (U.s. v. Cordoba-Hincapie, 2001, 489).

3 The Complexity of Mens Rea Mens rea must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt Mens rea must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt Mens rea is difficult to discover and prove in part due to vague and incomplete legislative definitions of the mental element. Mens rea is difficult to discover and prove in part due to vague and incomplete legislative definitions of the mental element. Confessions are the only direct evidence of mental attitude, however, indirect circumstantial evidence is the norm most often used. Confessions are the only direct evidence of mental attitude, however, indirect circumstantial evidence is the norm most often used. Culpability = blameworthiness Culpability = blameworthiness Intent in criminal law is more complex than the dictionary definition. Intent in criminal law is more complex than the dictionary definition. There is a problem with the relationship between mental attitude and motive. There is a problem with the relationship between mental attitude and motive. Different mental attitudes might apply to each of the elements of a crime. Different mental attitudes might apply to each of the elements of a crime.

4 Types of Intent General General Used commonly in cases to mean the intent to commit any criminal act defined as the actus reus in a criminal statute Used commonly in cases to mean the intent to commit any criminal act defined as the actus reus in a criminal statute Specific Specific Specific Intent Crimes are characterized by these adjectives: Specific Intent Crimes are characterized by these adjectives: deliberate, intended, planned deliberate, intended, planned Transferred Transferred or Constructive or Constructive Criminal Negligence Criminal Negligence

5 General Intent When prohibited or commanded by law When prohibited or commanded by law Often, by doing something intentionally Often, by doing something intentionally Some courts define general intent such that it is synonymous with mens rea, and includes both subjective and objective faults Some courts define general intent such that it is synonymous with mens rea, and includes both subjective and objective faults Inferred from your actions or failure to act Inferred from your actions or failure to act In Commonwealth v. Gagne, the court defined general intent as an unconscious action or a reflex In Commonwealth v. Gagne, the court defined general intent as an unconscious action or a reflex

6 Specific Intent A designated state of mind required to commit the particular crime A designated state of mind required to commit the particular crime Usually outlined in the law or statute Usually outlined in the law or statute For example: For example: With the intent to disfigure With the intent to disfigure Mayhem Mayhem With the intent to defraud With the intent to defraud Embezzlement or forgery Embezzlement or forgery With the intent to kill With the intent to kill Murder Murder Usually limited to attitudes with subjective fault (fault that requires a bad mind in the actor) Usually limited to attitudes with subjective fault (fault that requires a bad mind in the actor)

7 Transferred Intent Also referred to as constructive intent Also referred to as constructive intent Assumes a liability to the perpetrator for unintended consequences of the act Assumes a liability to the perpetrator for unintended consequences of the act Like what? Like what? A criminal justice student gets an F on his final, and is enraged by this. He decides to take out his anger on his professor by shooting him with a shotgun but, in the process of shooting his professor, he misses and hits one of his fellow classmates, causing his death. A criminal justice student gets an F on his final, and is enraged by this. He decides to take out his anger on his professor by shooting him with a shotgun but, in the process of shooting his professor, he misses and hits one of his fellow classmates, causing his death. Explain the facts and opinion in People v. Dismone, (650 N.W.2d 436 (2002 Mich.App.). Explain the facts and opinion in People v. Dismone, (650 N.W.2d 436 (2002 Mich.App.).

8 Criminal Negligence Such as failure to ensure proper care or control while performing an act Such as failure to ensure proper care or control while performing an act Or in a culpable (wrongful) failure to perform a duty Or in a culpable (wrongful) failure to perform a duty Usually with wantonness, flagrant or reckless disregard for the safety of others Usually with wantonness, flagrant or reckless disregard for the safety of others Examples: Examples: Criminally negligent homicide Criminally negligent homicide Negligent endangerment of a child Negligent endangerment of a child

9 The Model Penal Codes Four Mental States Purpose: State v. Stark, 832 P.2d 109 (Wash.App. 1992); Purpose: State v. Stark, 832 P.2d 109 (Wash.App. 1992); and, Commonwealth v. Barnette, 699 N.E.2d 1230 (Mass.App. 1998) Knowledge: State v. Jantzi, 641 P.2d 62 (Or.App. 1982) Knowledge: State v. Jantzi, 641 P.2d 62 (Or.App. 1982) Recklessness: Koppersmith v. State, 742 So.2d 206 (Ala.App. 1999) Recklessness: Koppersmith v. State, 742 So.2d 206 (Ala.App. 1999) Negligence: Koppersmith v. State Negligence: Koppersmith v. State

10 Strict Liability U.S. Supreme Court upheld power of legislatures to create strict liability offenses to protect the public health and safety, e.g., unsafe workplaces and adulterated foods U.S. Supreme Court upheld power of legislatures to create strict liability offenses to protect the public health and safety, e.g., unsafe workplaces and adulterated foods Must make clear imposing liability without mens rea Must make clear imposing liability without mens rea Penalties are usually mild for strict liability offenses, e.g., fines not jail times Penalties are usually mild for strict liability offenses, e.g., fines not jail times

11 The Principle of Concurrence The principle of concurrence applies to both crimes: The principle of concurrence applies to both crimes: Criminal conduct crimes, and Criminal conduct crimes, and Bad result crimes Bad result crimes So all crimes, except strict liability offenses, are subject to the concurrence requirement So all crimes, except strict liability offenses, are subject to the concurrence requirement

12 Concurrence Principle of concurrence requires Principle of concurrence requires Trigger a criminal act (actus reus) Trigger a criminal act (actus reus) Criminal intent (mens rea) Criminal intent (mens rea) Angela hates her roommate Katie and plans to kill her by running her over with her Hummer but, as Angela is heading to run over Katie, a complete stranger runs Katie over with his Jeep. Angela runs over to Katies body is dancing around it gleefully. Angela hates her roommate Katie and plans to kill her by running her over with her Hummer but, as Angela is heading to run over Katie, a complete stranger runs Katie over with his Jeep. Angela runs over to Katies body is dancing around it gleefully. Concurrence here means that the criminal conduct has to produce the criminal harm, it cannot be a coincidence. Concurrence here means that the criminal conduct has to produce the criminal harm, it cannot be a coincidence.

13 The Principle of Causation Principle of causation is about attribution (also called imputation) Principle of causation is about attribution (also called imputation) This is when the law holds an actor accountable for the results of his/her conducts. This is when the law holds an actor accountable for the results of his/her conducts. Causation applies to bad-result crimes Causation applies to bad-result crimes

14 Elements of Causation Factual cause Factual cause Also called but for cause of death or other bodily harm. But for cause means, if it were not for an actors conduct, the result would not have occurred. Also called but for cause of death or other bodily harm. But for cause means, if it were not for an actors conduct, the result would not have occurred. Legal cause Legal cause Also called proximate cause of death or other bodily harm. Is it fair to blame the defendant for this harm? Also called proximate cause of death or other bodily harm. Is it fair to blame the defendant for this harm? What is an intervening cause? What is an intervening cause? What are the facts and opinion in Commonwealth v. McCloskey, 835 A.2d 801 (Pa.Super 2003)? What are the facts and opinion in Commonwealth v. McCloskey, 835 A.2d 801 (Pa.Super 2003)?

15 Ignorance and Mistake of Fact Ignorance of the law is no defense, but mistake of fact is a defense Ignorance of the law is no defense, but mistake of fact is a defense Ignorance of the law is an absence of knowledge about facts or law, while mistake of the law is when you are wrong about them, i.e. you believe they are one thing, when they are really another. Ignorance of the law is an absence of knowledge about facts or law, while mistake of the law is when you are wrong about them, i.e. you believe they are one thing, when they are really another.

16 The Principle of Legality 3 Elements… Rules of law express objective meanings Rules of law express objective meanings Only authorized competent officials can declare what is objective Only authorized competent officials can declare what is objective Only official interpretations are legal Only official interpretations are legal Criminal laws cannot be ignored or contradicted by allowing defendants to plead that their ignorance or mistake of law negated the mental element of a crime. ** In other words, final interpretation is determined by the court.


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