Criminal LawChapter 3The General Principles ofCriminal Liability: Actus Reus Joel Samaha, 9th Ed.
Elements of a Crime • Criminal act (actus reus) • Criminal intent (mens rea) • Concurrence (“an act set in motion by an intent”) • Attendant circumstances • Bad result or harm
All crimes have to include, at a minimum, a criminal act (actus reus).
Questions What is an attendant circumstance? Give an example. Explain the concept of a criminal conduct crime? Give an example.
Criminal Liability • Actus reus(criminal act) • We punish people for what they do, not for what they intend to do (state of mind), or for who they are (status). Key term: manifest criminality • Men's rea(criminal intent) • Punishment • (at least for serious crimes) depends on the blameworthiness of the intent that triggers the criminal act • Concurrence • Criminal intent (mens rea) has to trigger criminal acts (actus reus) and cause criminal harm
Factors Which Affect Actus Reus • Voluntary acts • Status or condition • Constitution • Criminal omissions • Criminal possessions
Voluntary Acts • “A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act…” (ALI 1985, § 2.01). • So long as there’s one voluntary act, other acts surrounding the crime may be involuntary. • What are the facts and opinion of Brown v. State (955 S.W.2d 276, Texas 1997)?
Status or Condition and the Consititution • Action describes what we do, status (or condition) denotes who we are. Most statuses or conditions do not qualify as actus reus. • Status can arise in two ways: 1) From prior voluntary acts, such as drinking alcohol or using drugs 2) Being who we are: sex, age, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity • It is unconstitutional for the legislature to make a crime out of status or personal conditions. • What are the facts and opinion of Robinson v. California (1962, 370 U.S. 660)? Is actus reus a constitutional command?
Criminal Omission • Two types: 1) failure to report 2) failure to intervene; e.g., legal duty • Legal duty: 1) Statutes, e.g., income tax returns and firearms registration 2) Contracts, e.g., law enforcement officers 3) Special relationships, e.g., parent-child and doctor-patient
Questions What is the difference between the Good Samaritan Doctrine and the American Bystander Rule ? What are the facts and opinions of the following cases ? Commonwealth v. Pestinakas 617 A.2d 1339 (1992, Pa. Sup.) People v. Oliver (1989) State v. Miranda (1998)
Possession • Possession is not action; it is a passive condition. Examples of criminal possession statutes are burglary tools, stolen property, illegal drugs and weapons. • The passive state of possession as actusreusincludes: 1) control of items and substances, e.g., actual possession or constructivepossession 2) awareness of control, e.g., knowingpossession or mere possession • Explain the facts and opinion of Miller v. State (1999).