General Principles of Criminal Liability Mens Rea, Concurrence, Causation, and Ignorance and Mistake Chapter Four Professor Bonnie L. Toothaker Chapter Four: Mens Rea Mens rea is ?baffling? p106 10e difficult to discover then PROVE defined by many jurisdictions in many ways ?vague and incomplete varies with the crime and the elements it is attached to Lay terms are often confused with the legal definitions USE the LEGAL definitions Culpability means legal responsibility or criminal blameworthiness The degree of culpability often determines the punishment. When there is a degree of culpability or mental fault, we say there was scienter. Scienter is the legal term meaning level of knowledge - makes the person legally responsible for the consequences of his acts. Mens Rea p108 Confessions are the only direct evidence of mental attitude Defendants rarely confess their true intentions Proof of state of mind depends on facts and circumstances ? evidence Acts infer intent Mens Rea MPC p112 is the idea that the state of mind accompanying the act done makes the person culpable often determines the degree of the crime or culpability Intent Is Determined By Actions we INFER intent from actions it can be direct or indirect ACTS infer Intent The Standard of Conduct Called: Reasonableness Understanding the concept of the degrees of culpability requires a comprehension of: the *Standard of Conduct this standard asks: ?What would an ordinary person have done under a similar circumstance?? It becomes a measure against which we gauge the norm or the objective of the law and the act or the behavior within the law. Standards for Determining Intent Objective-what most people would do the norm the common person?s response under common circumstances the person should have done or should have known Subjective-what this one person did the actor?s actual state of mind independent of what is normally done under special circumstances Four Broad Mental States p109-110 general-undetermined and unspecific Minimum required for culpability No specific victim in mind specific - to cause a particular result Bad mind that triggers the action A specific victim or specific crime is intended Intent and Mental States supp. transferred - intended one harm but for some reason caused another constructive - do not intend any harm but should have known there was potential for harm or that the behavior created risk MPC p112 Makes sense out of 52+ variations and definitions Structures the culpable mental states Degrees of Culpability There are four mental states of legal responsibility or criminal intent better named degrees of culpability or one could even say levels of culpability (most culpable to least culpable): purposely knowingly recklessly negligently Purposely: Acting with purpose = highest level of mental fault. It is the fullest degree of culpability. To act with purpose is to engage in conduct that will cause for sure a specific result. The conscious objective of the act is a specific resulting harm. Purposeful acts are: intentional, willful, deliberate, premeditated, and ?specific intent?* actions. *Specific intent - acting to cause a particular result, like intent to cause death. Knowingly: Acting with knowledge is the next highest degree of mental fault. To act with knowledge is to have knowledge-awareness- of the conduct and circumstances and be practically certain what result the action will cause. Not every crime that most likely will result in some harm is done on purpose; we say then that it was done with knowledge. Acting knowingly is somewhat less in culpability than acting with purpose. Recklessly: To act recklessly is to consciously disregard a substantial harm. It is to take an unjustifiable risk. It is a gross deviation from the proper standard of conduct. When a person acts recklessly we say that the person consciously realized the big risk created and we hold that person culpable for his actions. It is a conscious risk creation. To act recklessly is somewhat less than acting with knowledge and certainly less than acting with purpose ? but more than being negligent Negligently: To act negligently is to act without respect to your responsibility. The person who acts negligently should be aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk. This person grossly deviates from the standard of care of a reasonable person. This individual unconsciously creates a risk. Negligently: continued This person should have known the resulting harm could be caused by his actions. The standard is that a reasonable person would have been aware of this possible result. Acting negligently is the least degree of mental fault or criminal responsibility, but still constitutes culpability. It should be noted that there is a difference between criminal negligence and civil negligence. Model Penal Code page 112 Purposely is like a guarantee conscious objective = result intended Stark p113 Knowingly like being practically certain ? it?s going to happen Jantzi p116 Recklessly consciously disregards; conscious risk creation Negligently unconscious risk creation should be aware (objective) Koppersmith p119 R or N; *Loge p121 N; strict lia Recklessly and Negligently . . . are often confused . . . BOTH involve a substantial and unjustifiable risk Recklessly a gross deviation from the standard of conduct Negligently a gross deviation from the standard of care Strict Liability Crimes p120 Are a major exception to the principle that act and intent are essential to every crime strict liability requires NO MENS REA liability without fault Prosecution does not have to prove intent Strict Liability Why? Strong public interest - the public welfare is at risk Punishment is usually fines-probation/licensure Adulterated food, transportation safety, work place safety do not confuse this with vicarious liability in Chapter 4 vicarious liability requires NO ACTUS REUS *Loge p121 Concurrence ACT plus INTENT equal Concurrence acts NOT accompanied by intent could be accidents intent alone - without actions (with no actus reus) is ?in the mind? and does not constitute criminal activity Concurrence is an element in all crimes p123 Causation ACT plus INTENT = Concurrence --> LEADING TO the HARM Did the person ACT with INTENT to CAUSE the resulting HARM ? There are TWO types of causation Causation . . . two types: Legal Cause and Factual Cause Prosecution has to prove both Legal Cause (direct cause or actual cause) PROXIMATE CAUSE or next to; the main cause of the harm Set in motion a chain of events Sequential path of circumstances If it were not for the actor?s conduct the harm would not have occurred = direct Obvious sequence of events CAUSATION Factual Cause (indirect cause or ?but for? = SINE QUA NON cause) The actor?s conduct sets in motion a chain of events that sooner or later leads to the result It?s objective; steps lead to the harm eventually Intervening causes INTERRUPT the chain of events Superseding cause relieves liability the person starting the chain of events because the original conduct is no longer the proximate cause People v Armitage p125 HARM When one acts with intent to cause one result, but causes a greater harm instead, the greater harm is the bad result; there is culpability for the greater harm The purpose of the law is to PREVENT harm The RESULT of - Caused by the general elements Which must be dealt with in ORDER ACT INTENT CONCUR CAUSATION HARM Totality of the Circumstances ?T of C? the idea that circumstances MUST be considered altogether - not individually Material Surrounding Circumstances ?MSC? the idea that a special circumstance may affect the crime significantly Ignorance and Mistake Mistake is a defense whenever formulating intent Defense of excuse ? the mistake or ignorance interfered with the culpable state of mind had I known I never would have acted Ignorance and mistake raise reasonable doubt . . . WARNING . . . Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 are crucial to understanding and doing well in the course Basic concepts are also extremely important in understand how the law works, how to apply the law and what the legal system means end the end
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