Shared Flashcard Set


Criminal Law - Metzger
1L Fall Semester

Additional Law Flashcards




Mistake negating mens rea

Cheek v. U.S. - D stopped paying taxes b/c part of group that said it was unconstitutional

Court says willfully = knowingly


Ignorance of laws is not a defense

Fair Notice and Due Process

Lambert v. CA - sex offender didn't know she had to register - court finds not guilty


Conscious avoidance - purposely avoiding knowing the law (need to show high probability of knowledge)

MPC 2.02 - Culpability

1) Purposely (more subjective) - intentional, conscious purpose to harm (e.g., 

2) Knowingly (less subjective) - practically certain to result in harm (necessary but not sufficient to purposely)

3) Recklessly - consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk

4) Negligently - gross deviation from standard of care - should be aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk

When is there a legal duty to act?

1) Special relationship - husband/wife, parent/child, master/servant

2) Contract requires explicit/implicit acts - e.g., contractual duty to care for elderly person

3) Statutory duty - e.g., have to pay federal taxes

4) When D creates risk of harm to victim

5) When D voluntarily assumes care

Elements for determining proportionality

1) Gravity of offense versus harshness of punishment

2) How similar crimes are published in this jursidiction and/or

3) In different jurisdictions

Proportionality principle

8th Amendment - prohibits cruel and unusual punishment


Kennedy v. Louisiana - man who found guilty of aggravated rape (rape of under 12) his stepdaughter is sentenced to death - court finds punishment "grossly disproportionate" to crime


CHANGING ATTITUDES: used to be common to execute for rape, especially black male-white female

Statutory interpretation

1) Plain meaning

2) Context clues

3) Look for similar things in list

4) Look at structure of statute

5) Look at statutory amendments

6) Avoid absurdity

Rule of lenity

All doubts when reading criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of defendant


E.g., U.S. v. Dauray (child porn case - statute said "contain visual depictions; D argued the porn ARE visual depictions - argument against ambiguous statutes)

Objectives of Punishment

1) Deterrence - punish one person to deter general society, e.g. People v. Suitte (upstanding citizen and family man is punished for possessing gun)

2) Rehabilitation - educating on why one shouldn't do it again (recidivism)

3) Retribution - justifies punishment

4) Isolation - isolate the perpetrator so they can't do it again

Types of crime

Malum inse - crime that's inherently immoral (murder)


Malum prohibitum - crime that's bad because society has decided it's bad and made statutes prohibiting it (parking violations, gambling, restrictions on gun ownership)

Legislative intent of statutes (cases)

State v. Tippetts - D, searched at home, taken to jail and searched again - found marijuana - charged with supplying contraband to prisons - court finds no voluntary act b/c statute requires awareness


Ewing v. California - D with many priors commits grand theft - Three Strikes Law in CA, judge can choose to classify as felony or misdemeanor - court goes with felony to set example to reduce incentive for recidivism


1) Conscious object to cause certain result or to engage in certain conduct

2) Knowledge to a virtual certainty that particular harm will occur


e.g., State v. Fugate - intent to kill can be presumed when natural and probable consequence of wrongful act is to produce death - deduced from circumstances and weapons

Causation (Part I)

Actual causation - but-for test (but for D's conduct, would P have been harmed?)

Proximate - intervening cause analysis

Dependent - cause dependent on D's voluntary act (easier to show)

Independent - cause is independent

e.g., driving drunk and in correct lane, hit pothole on road where you live - foreseeable

Usually NOT proximate UNLESS foreseeable

Causation (Part II)

Commonwealth v. Rementer - D was assaulting girlfriend; girlfriend running to get help, is fatally hit by third-party car

State v. Govan - D shoots girlfriend, which causes her to become quadriplegic, and she dies from pneumonia 5 yrs later that she was more susceptible to b/c of quadriplegia


FORESEEABILITY IS TOUCHSTONE - reasonable actions are foreseeable


D's conduct does not need to be the sole cause to show causal connection


Temporal concurrence - D must have mens rea at the same moment D's voluntary conduct (or omission) causes social harm (actus reus)

Motivational concurrence - mens rea must be motivating force behind actus reus


e.g., Thabo Meli v. Reginam - Ds accused of getting man drunk, hitting him on head - Ds thought they had killed him and put him outside - but victim actually died of exposure - court finds guilty even though MR and AR were not in concert at time of victim's death b/c Ds already thought they had killed him

Murder vs. manslaughter

Murder - unlawful killing of human being by another human being with malice aforethought (purposely and knowingly)


Manslaughter - unlawful killing of human being by another human being WITHOUT malice aforethought (recklessly and negligently)


Malice aforethought

When any of the following are present:

1) intent to kill;

2) intent to commit serious bodily injury; (prevents Ds from saying "I didn't mean to kill")

3) "abandoned and malignant heart"/"depraved heart" murder (something morally defective about Ds)

4) felony murder rules (when you're committing a felony and someone dies during it, guilty of murder)

Voluntary acts

1) Bodily movement

2) Performed consciously

3) Conscious possession/control of property


State v. Decina - D seizes while driving - court finds D knew of condition and was negligent to drive - consider: time frame, concurrence

Law-abiding person versus reasonable person

Always abide by law vs. don't always abide by laws, but follow what is reasonable


e.g., drunk driver drives down isolated country road - reasonable man would give this weight, law-abiding man would not

MPC 2.02(6)

Requirement of Purpose Satisfied if Purpose is Conditional 


e.g., actor has gun - if victim resists, will use gun, if victim doesn't resist, won't use gun - STILL armed robbery - just b/c condition never arises, doesn't mean mens rea can't be considered

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