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Contemporary Criminal Law
Chapter 1
Criminal Justice
Undergraduate 3

Additional Criminal Justice Flashcards




Define a crime.
Crime is conduct that, if shown to
have taken place, will result in a formal and solemn pronouncement of moral condemnation by the community.
Distinguish between criminal and civil law. Distinguish between a criminal act and a tort.
*The civil law protects the individual
rather than the public interest.
*The difference between a civil and criminal action is not always clear, particularly with regard to an action for a tort, which is an injury to a person or to his or her property. Consider the drunken driver who runs a red light and hits your car. The driver may be sued in tort for negligently damaging you and your property as well as criminally prosecuted for reckless driving. The purpose of the civil action is to compensate you with money for the damage to your car and for the physical
and emotional injuries you have suffered. In contrast, the criminal action punishes the driver
for endangering society. Civil liability is based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, while
a criminal conviction carries a possible loss of liberty and is based on the higher standard of guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt. You may recall that former football star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman but was later found guilty of wrongful death in a civil court and ordered to compensate the victims’ families in the amount of $33.5 million.
What is the purpose of criminal law?
The criminal law prohibits conduct that
causes or threatens the public interest;
defines and warns people of the acts
that are subject to criminal punishment;
distinguishes between serious and minor
offenses; and imposes punishment
to protect society and to satisfy the
demands for retribution, rehabilitation,
and deterrence.
Is there a difference between criminal law and criminal procedure? Distinguish between the specific and general part of the criminal law.
The study of substantive criminal law involves an analysis of the definition of specific crimes (specific part) and of the general principles that apply to all crimes (general part), such as the defense of insanity. In our study, we will first review the general part of criminal law and then look at specific offenses. Substantive criminal law is distinguished from criminal procedure.
Criminal procedure involves a study of the legal standards governing the detection, investigation,and prosecution of crime and includes areas such as interrogations, search and seizure, wiretapping,and the trial process. Criminal procedure is concerned with “how the law is nforced”; criminal law involves “what law is enforced.”
List the basic principles that compose the general part of criminal law.
Think of the general part of the criminal law as the building blocks that are used to construct specific offenses such as rape, murder, and robbery.
Distinguish between felonies, misdemeanors, capital felonies, gross and petty misdemeanors, and violations.
A crime punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year is a felony.
Capital felonies are crimes subject to the death penalty or life in prison in states that do not have the death penalty.
The term gross misdemeanor is used in some states to refer to crimes subject to between six and twelve months in prison, whereas other misdemeanors are termed petty misdemeanors.
Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than a year in prison. Note that whether a conviction is for a felony or misdemeanor is determined by the
punishment provided in the statute under which an individual is convicted rather than by the actual punishment imposed.
What is the difference between mala in se and mala prohibita crimes?
Another approach is to classify crime by “moral turpitude” (evil). Mala in se crimes are considered "inherently evil” and would be evil even if not prohibited by law. This includes murder, rape,robbery, burglary, larceny, and arson. Mala prohibita offenses are not “inherently evil” and are only considered wrong because they are prohibited by a statute. This includes offenses ranging from tax evasion to carrying a concealed weapon, leaving the scene of an accident, and being drunk and disorderly in public.
Discuss the development of the common law. What do we mean by common law states and code jurisdiction states?
The English common law is the foundation of American criminal law. The origins of the common law can be traced to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The Norman king, William the
Conqueror, was determined to provide a uniform law for England and sent royal judges throughout
the country to settle disputes in accordance with the common customs and practices of the country.
common law crimes had been developed, including arson, burglary,
larceny, manslaughter, mayhem, rape, robbery, sodomy, and suicide. These were followed
by criminal attempt, conspiracy, blasphemy, forgery, sedition, and solicitation. Some states remain common law states, meaning that the common law may be applied
where the state legislature has not adopted a law in a particular area. The Florida criminal code
states that the “common law of England in relation to crimes, except so far as the same relates to
the mode and degrees of punishment, shall be of full force in this state where there is no existing
provision by statute on the subject.” Florida law further provides that where there is no statute,
an offense shall be punished by fine or imprisonment but that the “fine shall not exceed $500, nor the term of imprisonment 12 months.
California, on the other hand, is an example of a code jurisdiction. The California criminal
code provides that “no act or omission . . . is criminal or punishable, except as prescribed or
authorized by this code.”21
Discuss the nature and importance of the state police power.
The Supreme Court proclaimed that the police power includes the right to “lay out zones where family values, youth values, the blessings of quiet seclusion, and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people.”
10. Why is the Model Penal Code significant?
The Model Penal Code is purely advisory and is intended to
encourage all fifty states to adopt a single uniform approach to the criminal law. The statutes are
accompanied by a commentary that explains how the Model Penal Code differs from existing state statutes. Roughly thirty-seven states have adopted some of the provisions of the Model Penal Code, although no state has adopted every single model law.
What is the legal basis for federal criminal law?
The states granted various powers to the federal government that are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. This includes the power to regulate
interstate commerce, to declare war, to provide for the national defense, to coin money, to collect taxes, to operate the post office, and to regulate immigration. The Congress is entitled to make “all Laws which shall be necessary and proper” for fulfilling these responsibilities.
Define the preemption doctrine and dual sovereignty.
The sharing of power between the federal and state governments is termed dual sovereignty. An interesting aspect of dual sovereignty is that it is constitutionally permissible to prosecute a defendant for the same act at both the state and federal levels so long as the criminal charges slightly differ.
What is the significance of the Interstate Commerce Clause?
Several recent court decisions have held that federal criminal laws have unconstitutionally
encroached on areas reserved for state governments. This reflects a trend toward limiting the
federal power to enact criminal laws. For instance, the U.S. government, with the Interstate
Commerce Clause, has interpreted its power to regulate interstate commerce as providing the
authority to criminally punish harmful acts that involve the movement of goods or individuals across state lines. An obvious example is the interstate transportation of stolen automobiles.
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