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Criminal Law - Outline - Part 3

By Lindsey Jackson

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  1. State v. Sowry: the defendant was arrested and brought into jail where they searched him thoroughly and found marijuana in his pocket. He is charged with RC 2921: bringing drugs on detention grounds and he is convicted. Sowry appeals on insufficient evidence and that he should have been acquitted. Court ends up saying there is not sufficient evidence and no rationale juror could have found he voluntarily brought it in.
    1. Actus reus: conveyed
      1. Original statute 2921 doesn’t say voluntarily
      2. Always assume (read in) voluntary, not punishing for a guilty mind alone (maxim- general truth)
    2. Voluntary: you thought and did the action
      1. Not reflexive or convulsive
      2. Person desired the action
      3. Moral blameworthiness where the theories of punishment apply
    3. Not voluntary: conveyed but not voluntarily
      1. In handcuffs/ state possession
    4. Generally: look at the moment of the act, but sometimes public policy intervenes, and we move the timeline. (ex. Drunk behind the wheel and passes out)
    5. Model Penal Code (MPC): Not voluntary:
      1. Reflex or convulsion
      2. Bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep
      3. Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion
      4. Bodily movement that is not a product of the effort or determination of fact, either conscious or habitual

3. Mens rea: There must be an act and the “mind be guilty”; absent confession by the defendant, circumstantial evidence proves this element. (most often contested because it’s hard to prove.

  1. 2 Meanings:
    1. Culpability meaning (broad): morally blameworthy mindset. (ex. Shooting someone in self defense v. shooting someone to kill them)
    2. Elemental meaning (narrow): particular mental state required by the statute. (ex. Knowingly, intentionally (general or specific), willfully, recklessly, or negligently)
    3. Ask what the particular mental state required by the statute is.
  2. Knowingly: MPC definition is (1) aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and (2) aware to a practical certainty that his conduct will cause such a result. (pg.30)
    1. United States v. Pennington: The defendants were new truckers that picked up a load of what they believed to be tile that their broker suggested. Turns out there was 591 pounds of marijuana in the back of the truck. The defendants were charged with possession with intent to distribute and convicted at trial. They appeal their conviction arguing the sufficiency of the evidence to their knowing. Appellate court affirms the jury’s verdict.
      1. Knowingly is the mens rea element of the statute. It is an element because it is important to get the right party.
      2. Statute elements: (1) knowing (2) possession of marijuana (3) with intent to distribute.
      3. General rule: control of the vehicle is enough to convict if the marijuana is visible and readily accessible.
        1. Exception: not if it is hidden
          1. Government contends it was not hidden in a compartment
          2. Court says it was hidden because it was not noticeable
        2. Need other evidence:
          1. Nervousness, inconsistent statements, implausible stories, large amounts of cash, or other relevant evidence.
          2. government says that since they took a long route and took too long that was enough circumstantial evidence.
        3. The court was not convinced they knew, but by the rationale standard they affirm.
    2. United States v. Shaw: Found Shaw with a sawed-off shotgun after a police chase. The gun was 16 ¼ inches when the minimum is 18 inches. Federal Statute (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5871) makes it illegal it is in the tax code. If you want to possess a sawed-off shotgun less than 18 inches or a machine gun you must pay a tax on it. Constitution doesn’t give Congress the power to regulate firearms, but it does give power over the tax code. The defendant disputes knowing the shotgun was less than 18 inches.
      1. The government doesn’t ever have to prove the person was aware of the law.
      2. Staples: read knowledge into the statute; common law rule was that mens rea is a necessary element for criminal law. There can be no crime without actus reus and mens rea. Congress would need to explicitly reject that requirement in the statute to get around it.
      3. General Rule: all criminal offenses have mens rea requirement, it will be read in by the Court
        1. Strict liability: no mens rea requirement.
        2. Default assumption is that there is a mens rea term (read one in unless clear language not to)
        3. In this situation, if they had failed to read it in this would be a strict liability statute and that was not Congress’ intent.
      4. Defendant needs to show that it was a surprise
        1. Circumstantial evidence shows it was not:
          1. Familiarity with the firearm
          2. Knows about firearms in general
          3. External and readily observable
          4. The jury was able to see and hold it
    3. United States v. Pierotti: the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence. A year later he wants to purchase a gun for hunting. His sheriff friend and probation officer say since no felony he is good. Questionnaire at Walmart asks if he has ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence and he checks yes. At the end it gives him an error message and he goes back and checks no. He fails to read the “more information” about the question. He argues he didn’t know and thought the computer more knew about his conviction than he did, and the ostrich instructions should not have been read to the jury.
      1. He should have known his conviction belonged on the questionnaire and he had the opportunity to check and he did not.
      2. Government’s argument is that he deliberately chose not to find out the answer
      3. Ostrich instruction:
        1. Guilty if he deliberately or strong suspicion that he avoided the truth
        2. Helpful for the government: they didn’t have actual knowledge
        3. Prevents people from avoiding knowledge so that they have a defense when charged with a crime
        4. “A deliberate effort to avoid guilty knowledge is all the guilty knowledge the law requires.”
      4. 2 requirements for ostrich instructions:
        1. The defendant is claiming lack of knowledge, and
        2. Evidence that the defendant deliberately avoided learning the truth
  3. Intent = “purposely” (interchangeable)
    1. General Rule (common law): person acted with the conscious object of causing the social harm
    2. United States v. Cortes-Caban: Cops in Puerto Rico were charged with possession with conspiracy to distribute. They were planting drugs on people to get them arrested. We are concerned with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute.
      1. General intent: lower level of intent; just intent to perform the actus reus
      2. Statute has specific intent: intend the act (possess) and distribute
      3. Specific Intent requires:
        1. proof of an intention by the actor to perform some future act or achieve some further consequence beyond the conduct or result that constitutes the social harm of the offense;
        2. proof of some special motive for the conduct; OR
        3. provides that the actor must be aware of a statutory attendant circumstance
        4. None of the above is general intent crime
      4. The argument from the defendant is that they intended to fabricate evidence, not distribute
      5. Court says:
        1. Distributing = transfer; not concerned with buying/selling
        2. Transferring drugs between each other and to the person they want to arrest
        3. Doesn’t matter what the objective was
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