Due to COVID-19, we are providing FREE consultations via PHONE or VIDEO conferencing for your safety and convenience. Please don't hesitate to call us if you have any questions! 877-462-3841

Justia Lawyer Rating
Best Lawyer
Super Lawyer - Top 100
Super Lawyer - Top 100
Best Lawyers
Avvo Rating 10.0
AV Preeminent
NACDA
The National Trial Lawyers
The Best Lawyers in America
Best Lawyers
CLEA
Advocates for Justice
Business North Carolina Legal Elite - 2021
DUI Defense
NBTA
*For additional information regarding the criterion for inclusion or membership for lawyer associations, awards, & certifications click image for link.

Criminal Law - Outline Part 1

By Collin B. Hardee

Download the PDF version of this outline

Part 2 >>

Crime = Actus Reus (Voluntary/Culpable Act OR Omission (Duty + Failure to Act)) + Mental State + Result = Social Harm (Crime) - Defenses

Actus Reus – voluntary act + social harm, omissions do not usually count

Common Law / NC
  • Requires voluntary act and a social harm
  • Act is voluntary if D willed the action of if she was sufficiently free that she could be blamed for conduct
  • Social harm = harm caused by D’s voluntary act
  • A willed muscular contraction
    • Involuntary Act can negate the act/action and serve as affirmative defense
MPC
  • 2.01: not guilty of offense unless liability if based on conduct that includes a voluntary act or omission to perform an act which he has duty to perform
  • Act or action is a bodily movement whether voluntary or involuntary
  • VOLUNTARY:
    • Coercion/Duress/Under Threat (will have Defense)
    • Habit
    • “Brainwashed”
    • Demanded by police/authority
  • NOT VOLUNTARY:
    • Reflex/convulsion/seizure (UNLESS you know you are prone)
    • Bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep (sleepwalking scenarios)
    • Conduct during hypnosis
    • Bodily movement not a product of effort/determination of the actor
      • Cop bringing drunk guy into public

Possession – possession is act IF possessor knowingly obtained/received the thing possessed or was aware of his control of item for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate possession

  • Knowingly taking control of something is an ACT
  • Failure to terminate is an OMISSION

Actual: only one person has control over item

Constructive:

  • Exclusive – lacking actual possession, but aware of item, and have ability and intent to maintain dominion/control over the item; provable by sufficient evidence
  • Non-Exclusive – need additional evidence to determine possession
    • D’s proximity to contraband
    • Did D own/operate location where was found
    • Did D have control of item that contraband found in
    • D’s had opportunity to place contraband where found
    • Did D flee
    • Did D engage in suspicious behavior
    • Did D engage in drug activity, or high on drugs at the time
    • Did D have personal items where contraband found
Exceptions that Satisfy Actus Reus (Act) Requirement

1. Omission: Legal Duty to act + Failure to Act (Generally, NO DUTY TO ACT unless legal duty)

No crime unless there is a legal duty to act

Types of legal duties:

  • Statute – statute requires person to act (filing taxes)
  • Status (Relationship) – duty to protect another where special relationship (parent/child; husband/wife; innkeeper/guest; employer/employee; captain/passenger)
  • Contract – contract to come to aid of another (baby-sitter)
  • Creation of Risk: if you create risk which caused harm, you must act to absolve it
  • Assumption of Risk: if you begin to act voluntarily, you must continue acting (saving drowning child)

NOTE: for OMISSION to result in criminal liability, it must be proved that:

  1. Conduct of accused in failing to act was accompanied by requisite mens rea
  2. Accused was aware of facts giving rise to duty to act
  3. Accused owed legal duty to victim
  4. Causal relationship between omission and the result
  5. Performing the duty was possible
DO NOT Fulfill Actus Reus Requirement

Status

  • Criminal law cannot punish a person’s status – 8th Amendment bands cruel and unusual punishment and 14th guarantees due process under the law
  • Can’t be punished for being an addict or alcoholic
  • Status does not count as act or omission

Mens Rea = “an evil mind” - prosecution most prove a culpable mental state for each material element of offense

C/L

Specific Intent (usually fall into 3 categories)

  1. Requires an intention to perform an act above the “actus reus” of the offense (burglary)
  2. Requires intent to commit crime for particular purpose or a specific motive (larceny)
  3. Provides that actor must be aware of a statutory attendant circumstance (knowingly possessing stolen goods)
    1. Acts in addition to general intent

General Intent

  • Only mens rea required is a blameworthy state of mind
  • Volitional doing of a prohibited act
  • Can infer all mens rea from observing the conduct

Strict Liability

No mental state required. If you commit the act, you’re guilty

  1. Intentionally (Willfully) – consciously cause result or virtually certain that object will occur as result of conduct
    1. Willful Blindness – be aware of probably existence
  2. Recklessness – heightened criminal negligence / conscious disregard of substantial and unjustifiable risk
  3. Negligence – SHOULD be aware that conduct created substantial and unjustifiable risk that result would occur
  4. Maliciously – intentionally or gross recklessly causes social harm prohibited in statute

I’m Running Naked Man

NC
  1. Knowingly
  2. Willfully
  3. Intentionally
  4. Wantonly
  5. Maliciously
  6. Negligently
MPC
  1. Purposely – conscious objective to engage in conduct w/ intent to cause the result; aware of existence or believe/hope attendant circumstances exist
  2. Knowingly (Willfully) – awareness that conducts results are practically certain to occur
    1. Willful Blindness – if one deliberately avoids knowledge b/c of belief that knowing would be bad, then D satisfies Knowledge; requires HIGH PROBABILITY
  3. Recklessness (default when no mens rea) – conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk; actual awareness of gross deviation from standard law-abiding citizen – I know, but I don’t care
  4. Negligently – SHOULD be aware that the substantial and unjustifiable risk is gross deviation from standard law-abiding citizen – clueless person

Prince Knits Really Nicely

Purposely

Conduct AND Result = conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature, or to cause that result

Attendant Circumstances = AWARE of existence of such circumstances OR believes/hopes they exist

Knowingly

Conduct AND Attendant Circumstances = AWARE that conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances

Result = he is AWARE that it is PRACTICALLY CERTAIN that his conduct will cause such a result

Recklessly

Conscious (AWARE) disregard of substantial and unjustifiable risk that is a gross deviation from standard of conduct of a law-abiding person

Negligently

SHOULD BE AWARE of a substantial and unjustifiable risk; failure to perceive the risk involves a gross deviation from standard of conduct of a law-abiding person

Conduct: Bodily movement

Attendant Circumstances: Conditions

Result: Not always an element (i.e. result crimes)

Specific Intent
  1. First Degree Murder
  2. Solicitation
  3. Attempt
  4. Conspiracy
  5. Larceny
  6. Robbery
  7. Burglary
  8. Forgery
  9. False-Pretense
  10. Embezzlement
Malice
  1. Murder
  2. Arson
General Intent
  1. Rape
  2. Battery
  3. Extreme Reckless Murder
Strict Liability – Crimes w/ No Mens Rea
  1. Felony Murder
  2. Statutory Rape
  3. Public Welfare Offenses – violations punishable by fines; not incarceration

SCALES FRBF (ForReal BestFriend)

Client Reviews
★★★★★
I am so fortunate to have had Bill Powers on my case. Upon our first meeting, Bill insisted that through the emotions of anger, sadness, confusion, and betrayal that I remain resilient. He was available to answer questions with researched, logical, truthful answers throughout our two year stretch together. I went to any lengths for my case because he won my trust almost immediately... J.R.
★★★★★
My daughter had a second DUI and when it all seemed hopeless, Bill was able to get the charges dropped. This is a man who is extremely knowledgeable, yet still keeps his integrity which was impressive to me. He handles himself with dignity. If you hire him, you will have the best of the best, along with his expansive intellect and wisdom about the law. Lisa
★★★★★
Bill Powers’ staff has handled several traffic citations for me over the years, and they exceeded my expectations each and every time. Would highly recommend anyone faced with a traffic citation or court case contact his office and they will handle it from there. M.C.
★★★★★
Bill and his staff are flat out great. I (unfortunately) was a repeat customer after a string of tickets. These guys not only took care of the initial ticket for me, but went the extra mile and reduced my problems from 3 to just 1 (very minor one) on the same day I called back! I would recommend them to anyone. A.R.