2 Learning ObjectivesTo be able to identify the elements of, and to explain why, the voluntary act is the first principle of criminal liability.To be able to differentiate conduct crimes from bad result crimesTo be able to distinguish between criminal conduct and criminal liability and therefore punishment.To understand and appreciate the importance of requiring a voluntary act before there can be a crime.To understand the legal definition of a voluntary actTo identify the circumstances when, and to be able to explain why, status is treated, sometimes, as an affirmative actTo be able to understand how the general principle of actus reus includes a voluntary act and how it is viewed by the constitution.To identify the circumstance when, and to be able to explain why, omissions are treated as acts.To understand and identify the circumstances when, and to be able to explain why, possession can be treated as an act.To know the different types of possession recognized by the law
3 Voluntary act is the first principle of criminal liability In order to have criminal liability there must be criminal conductCriminal conduct is conduct that is without justification or excuseVoluntary act is the “conduct” part of criminal conductMany crimes don’t include a criminal intent or bad result, but only rarely does a crime not require a criminal act
4 Elements of Criminal Liability Actus Reus—the criminal actMens rea—the criminal intentConcurrence—the requirement that the criminal intent trigger the criminal actAttendant circumstances (when a crime does not require the mens rea, it generally requires some attendant circumstance)Bad result causing a criminal harm
5 Elements of Criminal Liability (cont.) Corpus delicti = “body of crime” but it doesn’t necessarily mean a physical body. It refers, instead to the elements of a crimeCriminal conduct = criminal act triggered by the criminal intentCriminal act = voluntary bodily movement.Conduct crimes = crimes which require a criminal act triggered by criminal intent
6 Elements of Criminal Liability (cont.) Bad result crimesSome serious offenses include all five elementsVoluntary act (criminal act)Mental element (criminal intent)Circumstance elementCausationHarmCriminal Homicide is an example of bad result crime
7 The Criminal Act: The First Principle of Liability Punish people for what they do, not who they arePunish people for what they do, not what they thinkManifest criminality—in order to have criminality, attitudes have to turn into deeds. Deeds leave no doubt about the criminal nature of the act
8 Voluntary Act Requirement Voluntary Act-Conduct that includes a voluntary act satisfies the voluntary act requirementOne voluntary act is enough ruleVoluntary act is an absolute requirement for criminal liability
9 Discussion ActivityCriminal Intent? Read the following scenario and determine whether or not mens rea existsSam sells cocaine believing that it is sugar; does mens rea exist? Why or why not?Sam sells cocaine in the honest but mistaken belief that it is legal to do so; does mens rea exist? Why or why not?
10 Facts: Burrell, the defendant, was convicted by jury of manslaughter. Case: State v. BurrellFacts: Burrell, the defendant, was convicted by jury of manslaughter.Issues: Burrell argued there was an error in jury instruction regarding criminal liabilityHolding: Upheld trail courts refusal to instruct the jury that Burrell’s act of pulling the trigger must have been a voluntary act was not an error
11 Issue: Was the act voluntary? Case: King v. CogdonFacts: Cogdon, the defendant, pled not guilty to the murder of her daughter because she was sleepwalking when she committed the offense.Issue: Was the act voluntary?Holding: No. Acts committed while asleep do not constitute a voluntary act
12 The Voluntary Act Requirement (cont.) Automatism-unconscious bodily movementsFault-Based Defenses-based on creating a reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s proof of a voluntary actAffirmative Defenses-excuse defenses of excuse for criminal liability, which take place after the prosecution has proved the defendant’s criminal conduct
13 Case: People v. DecinaFacts: Decina, the defendant, was charged with criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle resulting in death after hitting & killing 4 girls with her car as they crossed streetIssue: Decina suffered an epileptic seizure while driving; therefore, she argued the act was not voluntaryHolding: Defendant voluntarily got into the car (knowing she was subject to epileptic seizure) and thus the killing was not an involuntary act.
14 Status, Actus Reus, and the Constitution Status-character of condition of a person or thingMost status don’t qualify as actus reusStatus can, however, result from voluntary actExample: meth addicts voluntarily use meth the first time, and alcoholics voluntarily take their first drinkSome conditions (status) result from no act at all—we are born with those characteristics/conditions: sex, age, race, ethnicity
15 Compare Robinson with Powell California statute created crime of personal condition. It punished Robinson for being an addict, not for what he did day sentence was held unconstitutional because it punished him for his sickness. Decision brought other statutes into question.Texas statute made it a crime to be found drunk in public. Court distinguished Robinson and said that Powell was being convicted for voluntarily being in public. Very close case (plurality decision).
16 Omissions as Criminal Acts Failing to act can satisfy the voluntary act requirementCriminal omissionsFailure to actFailure to report something requiredFailure to intervene to protect person or propertyOmissions are only criminal if there is a legal duty to act
17 Omissions as Criminal Acts (cont.) Legal duties to act arise in several waysStatute provides the duty to actExample: duty to report child abuseExample: duty to file income tax returnsExample: duty to register as sex offenderContract provides the duty to actExample: emergency room doctorExample: life guardExample: law enforcement, fire fightersSpecial relationship provides the duty to actExample: parent-childExample: employer-employeeNOTE: sometimes a special relationship is created by assuming the care of another (see People v. Oliver)
18 Omissions as Criminal Acts (cont.) Criminal omissions cannot arise out of failure to perform moral dutiesMost states impose no duty to render aid to an imperiled stranger or call for help
19 Omissions as Criminal Acts (cont.) Good Samaritan Doctrine – creates (statutory) duty for stranger to render aidOnly a few statesAmerican Bystander Approach—no legal duty to rescue or summon help for someone in danger even if there is no risk in doing soMost states follow this approach
20 Discussion ActivityReview the Good Samaritan Doctrine of your state.What does it say is the responsibility of the Good Samaritan?What is the level of assistance the Good Samaritan should provide?What (if any) are special exceptions to the Good Samaritan Doctrine?Is there a penalty for not abiding by the Good Samaritan Doctrine?
21 Case: Commonwealth v. Pestinakas Facts: Pestinakas, the defendants, verbally agreed to care for Kly, an ill man, who suffered from weakness of the esophagus which hindered his ability to swallow. Kly died while in the defendants care from starvation and dehydration.Issue: Did the defendants have a legal duty to care for Kly?Holding: Yes. A failure to perform a duty imposed by contract may be the basis for a charge of criminal homicide. The jury instruction was appropriate.
22 Case: People v. OliverFacts: Oliver, the defendant, was at her home with Cornejo when he “shot up” and collapsed. Oliver was unable to rouse him and left him on the floor. Cornejo never regained consciousness and later diedIssue: Did Oliver have a “special relationship” with Cornejo that created a legal duty?Holding: Yes. A special relationship can be created by assuming the care of an individual. The assumption of care creates a legal duty, the failure of which constitutes a criminal omission.
23 Issue: Did Miranda have a legal duty to his girlfriends’ baby? Case: State v. MirandaFacts: While caring for his girlfriend’s infant daughter, Miranda, the defendant, called 911 and reported that the child was choking on milk. At the hospital, it was determined the child had multiple rib fractures and other injuries.Issue: Did Miranda have a legal duty to his girlfriends’ baby?Holding: Yes. A defendant, acting as a father figure to the victim assumed a “familial relationship” (even though there was no marriage or blood relationship), upon which a duty of care may be established
24 Possession as a Criminal Act Possession is not an act, it’s a passive conditionLegal fiction makes possession a voluntary actCriminal possessions include possession of: (see list)illegal weapons, illegal drugs, drug paraphernaliaalcohol by minors…Reason we engage in legal fiction of pretending possession is an act:is in our desire to prevent worse crimesmost people get possession through a voluntary act
25 Kinds of PossessionsActual possession—having actual physical control (the item is located on the person)Constructive possession—the person has the right to control the item, but it is not on their person
26 Kinds of PossessionActual and Constructive possession can take two forms: Knowing possession or mere possessionKnowing possession—person is aware what they have on them or what it is that they have control overMost states require possession to be knowing to be criminal actMere possession—person is not aware what they have on them or what they have control overEither don’t know they have it, or don’t know what it is they haveOnly two states hold that mere possession can be a criminal act
27 Discussion Activity Who is in possession? Trent is a practitioner of the trap shooting and is in possession of a rifle that he uses to practice with. He knows this rifle is illegal in the state he is living in. Trent asks his friend John to keep his rifle in his car. The police find John in possession of the rifle. John reports he is not the owner of the rifle and explains that it belongs to Trent. John explains that Trent gave it to him to hold a few days ago.Can both Trent and John be charged with the possession of the rifle? Why or why not?
28 Issue: Did Miller have possession of the drugs? Case: Miller v. StateFacts: Miller, the defendant, was convicted by jury of possession of cocaine and marijuana. The defendant was the passenger in the vehicle where the drugs were foundIssue: Did Miller have possession of the drugs?Holding: It is not necessary for the State to prove literal physical possession of drugs in order to prove possession. Miller was guilty of possession of marijuana, not cocaine.
29 Case: Kastl v. StateFacts: Kastl, the defendant, was a juvenile and one of 5 passenger in a vehicle parked in a parking lot. Officers observed beer cans around and in the vehicle.Issue: Did Kastl possess alcohol?Holding: Yes. Constructive possession is sufficient to prove possession of contraband
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