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Chapter 6 Criminal Harm: Causation and Attempt

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1 Chapter 6 Criminal Harm: Causation and Attempt
Criminal Law Summer TA Session Notes

2 Causation MPC § 2.03 – Causal relationship between Conduct and Result
Conduct = cause of result when: A) It is an antecedent but for which the result in question would not have occurred; and B) The relationship between the conduct and result satisfies any additional causal reqs imposed by the Code or by the law defining the offense.

3 Causation Actual and Proximate Cause
Cause-In-Fact (Direct/Actual Cause) “But for” test regarding Ds conduct Proximate Cause Who should be responsible for the harm

4 Intervening Cause Dependent Intervening Cause
Result occurs in response to Ds earlier conduct Must show that result is related to initial conduct. D liable (unless unforeseeable and freakish in its occurrence) Independent Intervening Cause Result would occur even in absence of Ds conduct D not liable (unless foreseeable to a reasonable person in Ds position) Extraordinary, extremely unusual, unforeseeable, superseding, secondary agency Break chain of causation.

5 Commonwealth v. Atencio Causation
Facts: D was playing Russian roulette with a gun with some friends which resulted in the death of one of the guys playing. Rule: Acting in cooperation with the victim While there was no duty to the Ds to prevent the deceased from playing, there was a duty not to cooperate or join him in the game. The concerted action and cooperation of the Ds by reckless conduct helped to bring about the deceased’s death. Using “But For” – “But for” the Ds conduct the result would not have occurred.

6 People v. Campbell Causation
Facts: Victim was supplied the means necessary for him to be able to kill himself by the D. The D gave him a gun loaded with blanks and left. Both the victim and the D had been drinking heavily. Rule: D was proximate cause of the victim’s death but still not guilty because at this time assisted suicide had no statute against. But for?

7 Commonwealth v. Root Facts: Drag race that led to a fatality
Rule: D not guilty because the victim made his choice and brought about his own demise. D was not involved in the actual operation of the victim’s vehicle. The action of the deceased driver in recklessly and suicidally swerving his car caused his own death. Victim’s actions brought about his own death. The victim’s risk taking was separate from others. But for?

8 People v. Kern Facts: Group of guys chased victim into traffic causing him to be hit by a car. Rule: Ds were the proximate cause of the victim’s death. Intervening circumstances: CAR Doesn’t break the chain of causation (Direct intervening cause) Victim had no other choice but to run out into the street. But for?

9 People v. Stamp Facts: Robbery of victim who had heart disease and he died minutes after robbery. Rule: Felony-murder rule Death as a result of the commission of another crime (strict liability offense) Take your victim as you find him. Doctrine is not limited to those deaths which are foreseeable. As long as the homicide is the direct causal result of the robbery, the felony-murder rule applies. But for?

10 Williams v. State 3rd Party Intervention
Facts: Victim shot during robbery which resulted in his gallbladder being removed and a trach tube put in which later was clogged and caused death of victim. Rule: D was proximate cause of victim’s death. Hospital may have been an intervening circumstance but it was not a break in the link in the chain. Insertion of the tubes into victim’s body was not an intervening cause b/c it was necessitated by the injury inflicted. But for?

11 People v. Stewart 3rd Party Intervention
Facts: D stabbed victim leaving him with single knife wound. Surgery led to discovery of a hernia which caused complications and, a month later, the victim’s death. Rule: D is not liable for the death of the victim due to the hernia. It was an independent intervening circumstance. But for?

12 People v. Kibbe 3rd Party Intervention
Facts: Individuals left man on the side of the road half naked, drunk, and without his glasses during a winter storm. Rule: Ds were the proximate cause of the victim’s death. Although, getting hit by a car was how he died and served as an intervening circumstance, it was dependent on the actions of the D. Not necessary that the ultimate harm be intended by the actor. Ultimate harm should have been reasonably foreseeable.

13 Attempt Inchoate Crimes – Generally
Activity that occurs after the formation of the mens rea but short of the attainment of the criminal goal is described as “inchoate” (imperfect or incomplete) conduct. Most common of these offenses are attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy. Lesser offenses of the substantive crime.

14 Attempt A criminal attempt occurs when a person, with the intent to commit an offense, performs any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that offense. D fails to satisfy EACH ELEMENT of the offense. Requires more than mere preparation. Requires substantial steps to be taken toward the completion of a crime. D must intentionally commit the acts that constitute the actus reus of an attempt, and he must perform these acts with the specific intention of committing the target crime.

15 Attempt Remember: Must have INTENT and SUBSTANTIAL STEPS E.g. Fred
Day 1: Pins a newspaper clipping of the new Gotham City Bank on his fridge with a red circle around it and the date 7/31/11 written. Day 2-4: Purchases a gun, borrows a van from his cousin, and goes to the Halloween store and purchases a Jason mask. Day 5: Takes photos of the inside of the bank and adds them to the newspaper clipping. Has Fred committed attempted robbery? What if on Day 6 Fred goes to the bank in the borrowed van, pulls up and hops out with the gun in hand, mask over his face, and runs toward the bank being stopped by three police just at the entrance?

16 “Mere” Prep v.s. Punishable Attempts
“Last Act” Test: An attempt occurs at least by the time of the last act but this test does not necessarily require that each and every act be performed on every occasion. “Physical Proximity Test”: The D’s conduct need not reach the last act but must be “proximate” to the completed crime. “Unequivocal Test”: An attempt occurs when a person’s conduct standing alone, unambiguously manifests his criminal intent.

17 Attempt Two varieties of criminal attempts:
“complete” (but “imperfect”) – occurs when the D performs all of the acts the he sets out to do, but fails to attain his criminal goal. “incompletely” – occurs when the D does some of the acts necessary to achieve the criminal goal, but he quits or is prevented from continuing.

18 People v. Lehnert Attempt
Facts: D discovered with explosive parts. Rule: D had the mental state and took a number of steps that went beyond mere preparation. Substantial step test demonstrates that the D took overt acts. Attempt requires conduct constituting a substantial step toward commission of the crime. Actor’s conduct must be strongly corroborative of the firmness of his criminal purpose. Mere prep is insufficient evidence of an attempt. Abundance of evidence to strongly corroborate the firmness of Ds purpose to commit murder

19 People v. Hawkins Attempt
Facts: Man gets into the bed with victim. “Let’s kick it.” Rule: He demonstrated expressed intentions since he took off his shoes and got into her bed. There were substantial acts for attempt. Attempt crime is one that falls short of completion through means other than the D’s voluntary relenting.

20 Renunciation (Abandonment)
MPC – a person is not guilty of an attempt if: (1) he abandons his efforts AND (2) his conduct manifests a complete and voluntary renunciation. Renunciation = affirmative defense. Must completely and voluntarily abandon effort to commit the crime or otherwise prevent the commission

21 Renunciation (Abandonment)
IMPORTANT Renunciation is NOT VOLUNTARY if it is motivated by circumstances not present or apparent of the inception of the actor’s course of conduct. Renunciation is NOT COMPLETE if it is motivated by a decision to postpone the criminal conduct until a more advantageous time or to transfer the criminal effort to another similar objective or victim.

22 People v. Staples Unequivocal Test
Facts: Guy who rented apartment above bank started to drill into the ceiling of the bank. D’s equipment was discovered by landlord and turned in to the police. Rule: Not abandonment/renunciation because he did not voluntarily abandon the act; he was motivated by other acts independent of himself. Attempt committed when it is established D intended to commit a specific crime and in carrying out his intention he committed an act that caused harm or sufficient danger of harm. D motivated by other acts independent of himself. Relevant factor to show voluntary abandonment – whether acts of the D reached a stage of advancement that they can be classified as an attempt.

23 Le Barron v. State Unequivocal Test
Facts: Victim pleaded with D not to rape her because of her pregnancy. Unequivocal act accompanied by intent is sufficient to constitute a criminal attempt D had taken substantial steps in attempted rape. Learning of the pregnancy constituted intervention of an “extraneous factor” within the meaning of the attempted rape statute. D had done everything necessary to insure commission of the crime intended and can not escape punishment.

24 Impossibility Legal Impossibility: Even if the D did everything he intended to do, it would be impossible for him to commit the crime. Traditional view: Defense to criminal liability Factual Impossibility: It is impossible for the D to commit the crime because of a fact or facts unknown to her. No defense to criminal liability. MPC does not recognize defense of impossibility.

25 People v. Dlugash Facts: Two men shot victim. First man shoots him a few times and second man shoots the victim shortly after the first. Which shot actually caused the man’s death was inconclusive. Rule: Not a legal impossibility because the D had the intent to shoot and kill so he is criminally liable. If the D believed the victim to be alive at the time of the shooting, it is no defense to attempted murder that the victim may have been dead.

26 Smallwood v. State Facts: HIV case where D was sexually assaulting women and penetrating them. Court charged him for attempted murder. Rule: Ds intent was not to kill, just to rape, so it was not attempted murder. Insufficient evidence to infer intent to kill.

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