CHAPTER. 3. Criminal Law. Laws maintain order in society. Laws regulate human interaction. Laws enforce moral beliefs. Laws define the economic environment. Laws enhance predictability. Laws support the powerful. What Do Laws Do?. Laws promote orderly social change.
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CHAPTER 3 • Criminal Law
Laws maintain order in society. Laws regulate human interaction. Laws enforce moral beliefs. Laws define the economic environment. Laws enhance predictability. Laws support the powerful. What Do Laws Do?
Laws promote orderly social change. Laws sustain individual rights. Laws redress wrongs. Laws identify wrongdoers. Laws mandate punishment and retribution. What Do Laws Do?
Laws channel human behavior while they simultaneously constrain it, and they empower individuals while contributing to public order. What Do Laws Do?
The rule of law holds that an orderly society must be governed by established principles and known codes that are applied uniformly and fairly to all of its members. The Rule of Law A cornerstone of our Western way of life.
Development of Law Modern Sources of American Law • U.S. Constitution • Declaration of Independence • Statutes • Case law • Common law
English Common Law: …an unwritten body of early judicial opinion developed by English courts. English common law originated from usage and custom rather than from written statutes.
English Common Law: English common law is based on non-statutory customs, traditions and precedents.
U.S. Constitution It is thefinal authority in all questions pertaining to the rights of individuals, power of the federal government and the states to create laws.
Types of Law • criminal law • civil law • administrative law • case law • procedural law
Criminal Law: …a branch of modern law that concerns itself with offenses committed against society, its members, their property, and the social order. Another term for criminal law is penal law.
Civil Law: • … that branch of modern law that governs relationships between parties. • An individual is the plaintiff. • A violation of this law is often called a tort. • Civil law includes breaches of contract, contested will, trusts, etc. • The result is often only loss of money.
Administrative Law • Rulings are made by government agencies. • This type of law is not usually directed at criminal violations. • Regulatory boards are given authority to make rules and to set standards.
Case Law: … the body of judicial precedent that is historically built upon legal reasoning and past interpretations of statutory laws. Case law serves as a guide to decision making, especially in the courts.
Case Law: Stare Decisis … a legal principle that requires that in subsequent cases on similar issues of law and fact, courts be bound by their own earlier decisions and by those of higher courts having jurisdiction over them.
Procedural Law: … the body of rules that regulates the processing of an offender by the criminal justice system. It includes general rules of evidence, search and seizure, and procedures following an arrest.
Categories of Crimes • felonies • misdemeanors • offenses • treason & espionage • inchoate offenses
Felony: … a serious crime that is punishable by a year or more in prison or by death. Fines may be levied.
Misdemeanor: … an offense punishable by incarceration, usually in a local confinement facility, for a period whose upper limit is prescribed by statute in a given jurisdiction; typically limited to a year or less.
Misdemeanor • Less serious than a felony. • Usually punishable by up to a year in a county jail (some states allow sentences for misdemeanors of up to two years). • Fines can also be levied.
Treason: • “… a U.S. citizen’s action to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the United States.” • Also, the attempt to overthrow the government of the society of which one is a member. • It’s the only crime specifically mentioned in the United States Constitution.
Inchoate Offenses: … an offense not yet completed. An offense that consists of an action or conduct that is a step toward the intended commission of another offense.
Features of all Crime • actus reus • mens reus • concurrence of actus rea and mens rea
Actus Reus: … “the guilty act.” Thoughts alone are not sufficient to constitute a crime. In some instances, speech can constitute a crime even though there is no specific physical action (i.e. yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire)
Mens Rea: • … “guilty mind.” • Intent to commit a crime • Based on assumption that people have the ability to make reasonable decisions about right and wrong.
Concurrence: … a guilty mind and guilty act must occur together to be able to obtain a conviction.
Strict Liability • Occurs where a guilty mind is not required. • purpose - To protect the public. • Some examples include: • traffic laws • narcotics laws • health and safety regulations • Also called absolute liability offenses
Other Features of a Crime • Causation • Resulting harm • Legality principle • Punishment principle • Necessary attendant circumstances
The elements of a specific crime are different than the general features shared by all crimes. Elements of a Specific Crime
These are the essential features of a given crime, as specified by law or statute. Example: First-degree murder requires an unlawful killing of a human being intentionally by another person with malice Elements of a Specific Crime
Legal Defenses • alibi • justifications • excuses • procedural defenses
Alibi: … a statement or contention by an individual charged with a crime that he or she was so distant when the crime was committed, or so engaged in other provable activities, that his/her participation in the commission of that crime was impossible.
Justification: … defendant admits that he committed the offense, however, he believes that he should not be held criminally responsible because he had a legally sufficient justification for his actions.
Types of Justifications • self defense • defense of others • defense of home or property • necessity • consent • resisting unlawful arrest
retreat rule - If the opportunity to escape exists, then the courts require that the victim take that opportunity and flee. Justification: Self Defense
If the opportunity to flee does not exist, then the victim can use proportionate forceto defend herself. Justification: Self Defense
You have the option of defending another if the person you are defending is a victim and is free from fault. Justification: Defense of Others
Defense of others does NOTinclude entering an illegal fight to help a family member or friend. Justification: Defense of Others
Most jurisdictions allow for the defense of property. The use of deadly force is not allowed when it comes to the defense of property. Justification: Defense of Home & Property
One can sometimes violate the law when the purpose of the action is to prevent even greater harm. Justification: Necessity
Courts have a difficult time with this defense, especially when it results in a person’s death. Justification: Necessity
If harm comes to an individual after he agreed to participate in the activity, then the question that is raised is this: Was a crime committed if the victim gave his consent? Justification: Consent
A person has the right to resist arrest if the arrest is unlawful. Justification: Resisting Unlawful Arrest
Some particular personal condition was occurring at the time, such that the defendant should not be held responsible. Judges and jurors must decide if harm committed outweighed the coercive influence. Excuse
Sometimes called “coercion.” Duress is an unlawful threat that induces a person to act in a way they normally would not act. Often not a useful defense when serious physical harm ensues. Excuse: Duress
Generally, children under age 7 are not able to reason or form intent. Hence, children under 7 cannot be charged with a criminal offense. Persons above age 7 but below 18 are typically charged as juveniles. Persons over 18 are charged as adults. Excuse: Age