Criminal Law Big Picture Outline

When addressing a criminal law question, you want to create a checklist of crimes for yourself. You want to first think about what crimes have been committed, then think about whether all elements are met, then lastly, think about any defenses that may be available.

NEVER bring up any defenses before laying out and analyzing every element of the crime.
First, are there any PLANNING CRIMES?

ATTEMPT defendant must have the mental state necessary to commit the underlying crime and take an affirmative act towards that crime.

Solicitation occurs when one requests or encourages another to perform a criminal act, regardless of whether the later agrees. REMEMBER – as soon as the person agrees, you have conspiracy.

Conspiracy an agreement between two or more persons to do either an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means. Remember that all co-conspirators may be charged with and found guilty of all crimes committed during the furtherance of the conspiracy.

Next, think about whether there are any CRIMES AGAINST PEOPLE

ASSAULT assault exists when the defendant attempts to commit a battery and fails or intentionally places another in fear of imminent injury.

BATTERY battery is intentionally or recklessly causing either bodily injury or offensive touching.

KIDNAPPING unlawful confinement of another, accompanied by a moving or secreting of the person.

RAPE rape is unlawful sexual intercourse without consent.

ROBBERY larceny with force, or putting the victim in fear, and taking the property from the person or in the presence of the owner. (this is in the category of crimes against people, while larceny is in the category of crimes against property, because you cannot forget about the force required for robbery – force against a person).

HOMICIDE this can be either murder or manslaughter. Please see the murder versus manslaughter chart for greater detail.

Then, think about any CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY

ARSON malicious burning of the dwelling of another.

BURGLARY the breaking and entering of the dwelling of another at night with the intent to commit a felony therein.

EMBEZZLEMENT fraudulent conversion of the property of another by one who is already in lawful possession of it. Note that possession is more than mere custody. Also note that although embezzlement is usually associated with finances, you can embezzle any personal property and the MBE usually does not test embezzlement in terms of finances.

FALSE PRETENSES a false representation of a material present or past fact which causes the person to whom it is made to pass title to his property to the misrepresentor who knows that his representation is false and intends to defraud.

FORGERY the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. The document has to be of legal significance.

LARCENY larceny is the trespassory taking and carrying away of personal property of another with intent to steal.

LARCENY BY TRICK this is larceny but using fraud or deceit to achieve the trespassory taking.

UTTERING → the act of offering a forged document to another when the offerer has knowledge that the document is forged.

Lastly, think about whether any DEFENSES apply. Do this last.  

AGE → if the defendant is too young to form the requisite mens rea required for the crime, the age might be a defense.

Crime Prevention → in some instances, it is acceptable to use reasonable force to stop a felony.

DEFENSE OF OTHERS → the same requirements for self-defense apply here.

Defense of Property → some force may be acceptable to defend property, but lethal force is never ok for the defense of property.

DURESS → in order to use duress as a defense, there must be a threat by a third person which produces a reasonable fear in the defendant that he or she will suffer imminent or immediate death or serious bodily injury.

ENTRAPMENT → exists when a law enforcement official has induced the defendant to commit the crime. The requirements are that the government originates the crime and induces its commission and the defendant is an innocent person who would not have committed the crime but for the inducement.

INTOXICATION → voluntary self-induced intoxication does not excuse criminal conduct in general. However, there may be a crime that is defined in such a way that self-induced intoxication may prevent the defendant from having the requisite mental state.

MISTAKE in some instances, mistake can be a defense, if it negates the requisite mens rea. (see chart).

IMPOSSIBILITY → factual impossibility arises out of Defendant’s mistake concerning an issue of fact and is no defense to a crime. Legal impossibility is where defendant engages in conduct which he believes is forbidden but is not, so there is no illegality.

SELF-DEFENSE → generally, there is a right to defend oneself against the use of unlawful force. However, the force used must not be excessive, i.e., you can only use the same amount of force to defend as is necessary to defend. For example, deadly may only be used if deadly force is being applied.


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