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Criminal Law - Outline Part 3

By Collin B. Hardee

Download the PDF version of this outline

<< Part 2 | Part 4 >>

Excuse – Wrongful Conduct, but Under Circumstances, D is Not Morally Culpable/Blameworthy Duress C/L and NC
  • Imminent threat of death or Great Bodily Harm to self or family member
  • Reasonable Fear – reasonable belief deadly force is imminent
  • Must be immediate – not a future harm
  • D must not be at fault
  • Person of ordinary/reasonable firmness would yield to immediate threat
  • Not an excuse to homicide
  • D was compelled to commit the offense by use or threatened use of force by coercer upon her or another (does not require it to be family)
  • Unavailable when any offense for which recklessly placed themselves in situation
  • Person of reasonable firmness in D’s situation would have been unable to resist coercion
  • Unlike C/L, Available for homicide unless D recklessly places self in situation
  • Unlike C/L, Does not require deadly force, just unlawful force
Insanity C/L and NC

M’Naghten Rule – D if insane if, at time of criminal act, he was laboring under such a defect of reason, arising from a disease of the mind, that he:

  1. Did not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; OR
  2. If he did know, he did not know what he was doing was wrong

Irresistible Impulse Test: D was insane if:

  1. Acted from an irresistible and uncontrollable impulse;
  2. D’s will has been otherwise than voluntarily, so completely destroyed that her actions are not subject to it, but are beyond her control
    1. NOT just an impairment of thinking, D suddenly can’t control conduct

Pure Cognitive Test: whether D has ability to appreciate the nature and quality of his conduct?


Substantial Capacity: one is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at time of the act, as a result of a mental disease or defect:

  • D lacked substantial capacity to:
    • appreciate the wrongfulness/criminality of D’s conduct; OR
    • to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law

i.e. – can prove insanity if can prove that D didn’t know conduct was wrong OR couldn’t control his conduct

MPC is revised version of M’Naghten Test + Pure Cognitive Test

Intoxication C/L and NC
  • GENERALLY, not a defense regardless of intent required – BUT may be a Defense against the SPECIFIC INTENT element of a crime
  • In NC - Defense if the voluntary intoxication negates the Specific Intent of a specific intent crime
    • If General Intent crime, voluntary intoxication DOES NOT negate the mens rea of the offense
    • Defense depends on whether Specific or General Intent crime

2.08: any form of intoxication is a defense if it negates an element of the offense

  • BUT, if RECKLESS is charge, intoxication is not a Defense if D would have known the consequences of his actions when sober
  • Involuntary Intoxication – can be an “EXCUSE” Defense b/c lack voluntariness
General Mistake of Fact Defense

Honest Belief Only (subjective)

HONEST and Reasonable Belief (Subjective and Objective)

C/L and NC

Honest Belief Only (subjective): Specific Intent / YES

HONEST and Reasonable Belief (Subjective and Objective): YES

Honest Belief Only (subjective): General Intent / NO

HONEST and Reasonable Belief (Subjective and Objective): Yes… Except:

  • Moral Wrong
  • Legal Wrong

Moral Wrong Test: Person can make a reasonable mistake regarding an attendant circumstance and yet be culpable (mens rea is not negated)

Legal Wrong Test: Person can make a reasonable mistake of fact and yet still be guilty of the greater crime, if the situation were as he believed


Honest Belief Only (subjective): YES – negates required mental state

HONEST and Reasonable Belief (Subjective and Objective): YES

2/04 - if granted MoF, D will be held for a lesser offense when the situation as he supposed it to be, his conduct constituted this lesser offense Must negate the mental state required to establish any element of the offense

Strict Liability

Honest Belief Only (subjective): NO – No mental state to negate

HONEST and Reasonable Belief (Subjective and Objective): NO – No mental state to negate

MPC/CL: NO mistakes get you off for strict liability

Mistake of Law C/L and NC


  • Mistake must be reasonable and honest
  • Collateral Law
  • Reliance on Official Statement or erroneous advice from official charged w/ law
  • No reasonable notification/publishing
  • Specification in Statute that knowledge of law is required

MPC codifies the C/L Reasonable Reliance doctrine

Impossibility of Fact C/L and MPC


Impossibility of Law C/L and MPC

NONE – cannot punish for a crime that is not a crime regardless if D thinks it’s a crime

Hybrid Legal Impossibility: where the actor’s goal is illegal but impossible due to a factual mistake of a legal status of an attendant circumstance

Elements of a Crime
  1. Voluntary act
    1. Or duty + failure to act
  2. Social Harm
  3. Mens Rea
  4. Actual Cause
    1. “but for” cause
  5. Proximate Cause
    1. Legal Cause – is it fair?
  6. W/O Legal Justification
  7. W/O Legal Excuse
  8. Concurrence
    1. All happening at once
Crimes Homicide C/L

MURDER killing of another w/ malice aforethought

Four Possible States of Mind:

Express Malice

  1. INTENTION to kill another human
    1. Use of deadly weapon implies Intent

Implied Malice

  1. SBI – intent to inflict serious bodily harm (great bodily harm) OR likely to inflict great bodily harm
  2. Gross Recklessness (Malignant/Depraved Heart Murder) – unusually high-risk conduct that will cause death or serious bodily injury under certain exceptional circumstances
  3. Felony Murder – during the commission or attempted commission of a felony in which death occurs – see section below

Voluntary Manslaughter killing of another w/o malice aforethought

  • Intentional killing that is mitigated by passion and provocation

D acts suddenly:

  1. In Heat of Passion
    • No Cooling-off period
    • Can’t have malice aforethought and Heat of Passion
  2. After Adequate Provocation
    • Legally Adequate Specific Categories:
      • Aggravated assault or battery
      • Infidelity/Adultery
      • Battered Spouse Syndrome
  3. W/ Causal Connection Between provocation, passion, and killing

Involuntary Manslaughter accidental death resulting from 1 of 2 causes:

  1. Criminal Negligence (Lawful act in Unlawful Manner)
    • Usually recklessly or w/ gross negligence
  2. Misdemeanor Murder
    1. Death resulting from unlawful act that isn’t a felony
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