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Criminal Law Outline - Professor Ghiotto - Campbell Law - Part 1

By Miller Moreau
Professor Ghiotto - 2019

Download the PDF version of this outline

Part 2 >>

Key Terms

Criminal Justice - Criminal justice is the delivery of justice to those who have committed crimes. The criminal justice system is a series of government agencies and institutions whose goals are to identify and catch unlawful individuals to inflict a form of punishment on them. Other goals include the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing other crimes, and moral support for victims. The primary institutions of the criminal justice system are the police, prosecution and defense lawyers, the courts and prisons.

Five Purposes for the Project of Criminal Law
  1. Punishment or retribution-the use of criminal law to hurt and humiliate a defendant in response to the defendant’s hurtful actions. Marks certain acts as wrong
  2. Deterrence-to convince the defendant or others to avoid committing wrongful acts in the future
  3. Incapacitation-Affirmatively restrict the freedom of a defendant to prevent further harm
  4. Rehabilitation-require a defendant to change bad behavior and underlying causes
  5. Restoration-“restore” the relationship between the offender and the community (and the victim if there is one)
Retribution and Punishment
  • The idea that causing deprivation, pain or humiliation to a wrongdoer is a proper goal of government.
  • Furman v. Georgia
  • Goal is to alter future behavior through the use of criminal law in the present
  • Specific deterrence is directed at the defendant, while general deterrence seeks to
  • stop future criminals from committing the same crime
  • United States v. Walker (Specific Deterrence)
  • United States v. Fuentes-Echevarria (General Deterrence)
  • Most common way to achieve this is by incarceration. Essentially, an incarcerated person cannot harm those outside the prison walls.
  • Total or near-total incapacitation is achieved through execution or life without the possibility of parole.
  • Graham v. Florida
  • Requires judges to consider certain types of rehabilitative possibilities when sentencing a defendant
  • United States v. Bannister
  • Tapia v. United States - Sentencing CANNOT be based on rehabilitative purposes

Elements and the Definitions of Crimes
  • Elements are the center of the criminal process
  • All elements must be proven
  • Statutes define crimes by setting out the elements that comprise that crime
  • Common law has become extinct as American jurisdictions have crafted statutes which sharply define the growing number of acts subject to criminal sanctions
  • Five Types of Elements:
    1. Identification-United States v. Chappell, United States v. Vance
    2. Elements that go to actions (actus reus)
    3. Elements that go to mental state (mens rea)
    4. Elements that go to jurisdiction
    5. Other types of elements, including scientific findings, prior criminal history, and facts relating to a victim such as age
Jurisdictional Elements
  • Governments burden to show jurisdiction of the court
  • First, in all cases the government must show that in some way, the crime occurred within the physical boundaries of a court’s jurisdiction.
  • Second, in federal cases a particular element often must be proven in order to make the case federal; for example, a bank robbery can only be a federal crime if the bank is insured by the federal bank
  • Failure to prove this can be fatal to the governments case
  • United States v. McNeal
  • United States v. Ivanov
Action Elements (Actus Reus)
  • Nearly all crimes require proof that the defendant performed some action
    • Exception is for crimes like failure to report a crime in certain situations
  • Actus Reus is often proven by the same evidence that proves identity (ex. eyewitness testimony)
  • Action elements are often tied up in issues of causation, which combine an action (shooting a gun) with an outcome (the death of a victim who is shot).
  • Causation: “Cause-in-fact” and “proximate cause”
  • “Cause-in fact” also known as but-for, is one that is necessary for the result to have occurred (ex. in a murder the defendant having fired a gun might be a cause-in-fact, if the murder could not have been accomplished without the firearm”
  • Proximate cause is often explicated in terms of foreseeability or the scope of the risk created by the predicate conduct
  • Inter alia-Among other things
  • Paroline v. United States - (Restitution and Deterrence)
  • United States v. Jameson - (Possession)
Actus Reus
  • Failure to act and also the presence of some duty to take action resting in the law, a relationship, or a contract
  • United States v. Park
Involuntary Acts
  • Whether the person chose to do the prohibited thing
  • Acts considered not voluntary:
    1. A reflex or convulsion;
    2. A bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep;
    3. Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion;
    4. A bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination of the actor, either conscious or habitual.
  • United States v. Flores-Alejo
State of Mind Elements (Mens Rea)
  • Require the government to prove what a defendant knew, intended, or planned
  • Can be proven most easily where a defendant admits that they had a particular state of mind
  • Often is the proof of this kind of element comes in through circumstantial evidence such as behavior of the defendant that would comport with a particular thought
  • Two most common states of mind elements are knowledge and intent
  • Knowledge
    • “A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:
      1. If the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and
      2. If the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.”
  • Many statues explicitly include an express element of intent to commit a specific act, which is sometimes refereed to as “specific intent.”
    • Statutes mandate that prosecutors prove up what the defendant meant to have happen in the future.
  • United States v. Pennington - Knowledge
  • United States v. Shaw - Intent via circumstantial evidence
  • United States v. Campos - Intent
  • United States v. Schreiber - Intent
Model Penal Code General Terms
  • “Act” or “Action” means a bodily movement whether voluntary or involuntary;
  • “Omission” means a failure to act;
  • “Conduct” means an action or omission and its accompanying state of mind, or, where relevant, a series of acts and omissions;
  • “Actor” includes a person on guilty omission;
  • “Acted” includes “omitted act”
  • “Purposely” is with purpose, design or with design
  • “Intentionally” means purposely
Two Principles of Model Penal Code
  1. The ambiguous and elastic term “intent” is replaced with a hierarchy of culpable states of mind. The different levels in this hierarchy are commonly identified, in descending order of culpability, as purpose, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.
General Requirements of Culpability
  1. Minimum Requirements of Culpability- A person is not guilty of an offense unless he acted purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, as the law may require, with respect to each material element of the offense
  2. Kinds of Culpability Defined:
    1. Purposely (Vermont v. Trombley): A person acts purposely with respect to a material element of an offense when:
      1. If the element involves the nature of his conduct or results thereof, it is his conscious object to engage in conduct that nature or to cause such result; AND
      2. If the element involves the attendant circumstances, he is aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes or hopes that they exist.
        • (Ex. a person who causes a particular result is said to act purposefully if “he consciously desires that result, whatever the likelihood of that result happening from his conduct.”) (Defendant’s own assertion of self-defense established that he acted with the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury. It was his primary conscious objective to inflict serious bodily injury.)
    2. Knowingly (United States v. Youts): A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:
      1. If the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; AND
      2. If the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.
      3. Deliberate ignorance or willful blindness is a proper standard proof of knowledge in a driving while suspended cases.
        • (Ex. a person is said to act knowingly if he is aware “that the results is practically certain to follow from his conduct, whatever his desire may be as to that result.”) (Ex. Youts stealing the trains)
    3. Recklessly (People v. Hall): A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor’s conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor’s situation.
      • Respondent's excessive speed and lack of control significantly increased the likelihood that a collision would occur and the extent of injuries that might result from such a collision, including the possibility of death
    4. Negligently (State v. Larson)-A person acts negligently with respect to a material element of an offense when he should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor’s failure to perceive it, considering the nature and purpose of his conduct and the circumstances known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation.
      • (Driving drunk)
      • Parents who do not believe in modern medicine…
Mens Rea
  • Identify-What is it? (General Intent, Specific Intent, Model Penal Code, etc.)
  • What does it require? (General Intent-knowingly, negligently)
  • If there is no “ly” adverb then that most likely requires Strict liability or General Intent

First Source of Mens Rea: Common Law

  • General Intent (Knowledge)
  • Specific Intent (intent)

Model Penal Code: Created to aid confusion of common law

  • NC has not adopted this

Mental States of M.P.C.:

  • Purposely (Vermont v. Trombley)
  • Knowingly (U.S. v. Youts)
  • Recklessly (People v. Hall)
  • Negligently (State v. Larson)

*Ranked according to the degree of culpability and punishment associated with the mental state. (e.g. Purposely is the hardest to prove and carries to heaviest punishment

Two Types of Defenses to Attack the Elements
  • Negation Defense
    • Trying to negate one of the elements
  • Affirmative Defense
    • Admitting all the elements but did it for valid reason
    • Burden shifts to Defendant to prove and now the Prosecution try to disprove elements of affirmative defense

Public Welfare Offenses: Supreme Court found it permissible for the legislature to enact a law that imposes criminal punishment when the violation involves protection of the public welfare without requiring proof of defendant’s conduct.

  • This is considered strict-liability crime
  • Element needed to prove this is: Proof that the defendant knows that the hazardous item is being possessed.

Prosecutions Burden: When a statute imposes strict liability, then the prosecutor need not prove the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the violation. Once Actus Reus is established, then liability is imposed

General and Specific Intent
  • A claim of mistake as a defense to a charge must negate an element of the offense, and most often goes to the defendant’s intent to commit the crime
  • Under the common law, the defendant’s claimed mistake for a specific intent crime did not have to be reasonable, only that the defendant has a subjective mistake that negated the intent element of the crime
  • For a general intent crime, the defendant’s claimed mistake must be a reasonable one, i.e. that a reasonable person would make in similar situations
  • A claim of mistake is often called a “defense” to the crime, but in reality it is an assertion by the defendant that the prosecution has not proven the intent element of the offense
Morally Blame Worthy Mindset
Mistake of Fact / Mistake of Law

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