Presentation on theme: "General Criminal Law Principles: Elements of a Crime & Actus Reus Keyed to E LLEN S. P ODGOR, P ETER H ENNING, A NDREW E. T ASLITZ, AND A LFREDO G ARCIA.,"— Presentation transcript:
General Criminal Law Principles: Elements of a Crime & Actus Reus Keyed to E LLEN S. P ODGOR, P ETER H ENNING, A NDREW E. T ASLITZ, AND A LFREDO G ARCIA., C RIMINAL L AW : C ONCEPTS AND P RACTICE (C AROLINA A CADEMIC P RESS 2 ND ED. 2009).
Topics Discussed ▫Elements of a crime ▫Actus Reus Voluntary bodily movement Unconsciousness as involuntary Possession as an “act” Omission where there is a duty to act as equivalent of an act ▫Agency liability
Elements of a Crime ▫Voluntary act (Actus Reus): a bodily movement or an omission of one where there is a duty to act. In order for assault to take place, it must involvee a voluntary act, not a twitch ▫Attendant Circumstance: a fact that must exist to hold ∆ liable but that ∆ need not cause (Ex. “nighttime” as an element of burglary) ▫Result: a fact that must exist but ∆ must cause it For homicide you have to have a death ▫Mental state (Mens Rea): Examples: Purpose Knowledge Recklessness Negligence See page 82
MPC – Elements of Crime MPC Elements 1.13(9)-(10) defines an element of offense as: ▫(9) “element of an offense” means (i) such conduct or (ii) such attendant circumstances or (iii) such a result of conduct as Is intended in the description of the forbidden conduct in the definition of the offense; or Establishes the required kind of culpability; or Negatives an excuse or justification for such conduct; or Negatives a defense under the statute of limitations; or Establishes justification or venue; ▫(10) “material element of an offense” means an element that does not relate exclusively to the statute of limitations, jurisdiction, venue, or to any other matter similarly unconnected with (i) the harm or evil, incident to conduct, sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense, or (ii) the existence of a justification or excuse for such conduct.
Actus Reus Common Law and MPC Voluntary Act: A bodily movement coupled with the supposedly conscious desire to make that movement. Involuntary Act: a reflexive or unconscious movement. Reflex, convulsion, sleepwalking, hypnosis are examples.
Actus Reus: Voluntary Voluntary Act: Model Penal Code ▫The following are NOT voluntary acts: A reflex or convulsion; A bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep; Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion; A bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual. MPC 2.01
Actus Reus: Unconsciousness Unconsciousness: MPC 2.01(2) ▫Not self induced as by voluntary intoxication or the equivalent ▫A complete defense to homicide ▫Need not reach the extent of coma, inertia, incapability of locomotion or of manual action… ▫Can exist where the subject physically acts in fact but is not, at the time, conscious of acting. ▫Evidence can be that of the actor’s testimony that he was not aware
Possession as Actus Reus Model Penal Code 2.01(4) “Possession is an act, within the meaning of this Section, if the possessor knowingly procured or received the thing possessed (but no need to know the thing’s nature, e.g, as cocaine); or was aware of his control thereof for a sufficient time to have been able to terminate his possession. ▫Possession and Control: Many possession statutes require proof that the defendant actually physically possesses the item (in the commonsense understanding of this idea), or at least exercises dominion or control over the item if no phy. poss. ▫Constructive Possession: Do not have to be in possession to be exercising “control and dominion” over the thing. “Mere presence is not enough.” However, “mere presence” and “awareness” may be enough. See page 95 for Watson v. State
Omission as Actus Reus (1)First, where a statute imposes a duty to care for another (2)Second, status relationship to another (i.e., Parent-Child) (3)Third, where one has assumed a contractual duty to care for another (4)Fourth, voluntarily assumed the care of another and so secluded the helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid (5)Creation of danger: if you create the dangerous situation, then you have a duty to save those you put in peril (6)Landowner (7)Duty to control – if responsible for third party Situations where failure to act may constitute breach of a legal duty:
Omission as Actus Reus - MPC MPC and Omission §2.01 (3). A failure to act. Generally not punishable. Exceptions: ▫When the statute defining the offense expressly states that failure to act is a crime. ▫A duty to perform the omitted act is imposed by law.
Actus Reus & Agency Liability Agency Liability There is generally no agency liability/respondeat superior liability. You individually have to commit the act. “Exceptions”: Corporate liability and Accomplice liability