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Chapter 5

SOCIOL 2309 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Malum Prohibitum, Overbreadth Doctrine, Model Penal Code

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Ryan King

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Soc 2309
Crime and Criminal Law
Chapter 5
I. Introduction
A. Substantive law – defined by statute, it prescribes and proscribes various types of
A.1. Law of crimes
B. Procedural law – rules that state must follow when investigating suspects or
prosecuting someone who has committed a crime
II. What is Crime?
A. Crime
A.1. Act in violation of
A.2. A criminal law for which
A.3. A punishment is prescribed; the person committing it must have
A.4. Intended to do so and to have done so without legally acceptable
A.5. Defense or justification
B. Mala in se crimes: inherently harmful because they generate strong emotional
responses in all victims of them
B.1. Differentiated from mala prohibita and other crimes by consensus,
severity of penalty and harm
C. Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) – the FBI’s annual report of crimes committed
in the USA; comprised Part I and Part II offenses
C.1. Part I are mala in se crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated
assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson)
C.2. Part II are some less serious mala in se crimes and mala prohibita
III. Sources of Criminal Law
A. State and federal constitutions, state and federal statutes and common law
B. Penal code and criminal code
IV. Limitations on Criminal Law
A. Substantive due process – a constitutional principle that holds that in addition to
procedural rights, the law must protect substantive rights
B. Overbreadth doctrine – a criminal law violates the overbreadth doctrine when it
fails to narrowly define the specific behavior is restricted
C. Cannot restrict due process or equal protection
D. Eighth Amendment bars “cruel and unusual punishment”
E. Void for vagueness – a statute is void for vagueness if it fails to clearly define
both the act prohibited and the appropriate punishment in advance
F. Ex post facto laws – criminalizing an act already completed but not previously
forbidden by the penal law
G. Bills of attainder – legislation imposing punishment without trial
V. Elements of Criminal Liability
A. Corpus delicti – refers to the five elements of criminal liability, each of which
must be established beyond a reasonable doubt
B. Common Elements of Criminal Offenses
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Soc 2309
B.1. Actus Reus (Criminal Act)
B.1.a. A guilty act
B.1.a.i. Voluntary bodily movements (occur by virtue of actor’s
free will, without coercion)
B.1.a.ii. An omission in the face of a duty to act (such as failure to
intervene when special relationship exists between parties)
B.1.a.iii. Possession
B.2. Mens Rea (Criminal Intent)
B.2.a. A guilty mind
B.2.b. Intent = mental purpose or desire to commit certain act
B.2.c. Motive = refers to cause, or reason why the act was
B.2.d. Model Penal Code – in relation to modern criminal law, it
sets forth four levels of intent
B.2.d.i. Four levels of intent: purposeful, knowing, reckless and
B.2.e. Negligence – a failure to act with the appropriate level of
B.2.f. Doctrine of transferred intent: applies to situations where a
person intended to harm person A but in error harmed person B
B.3. Concurrence
B.3.a. Concurrence – the union of the criminal act and criminal
B.3.b. Criminal intent must set the act in motion
B.4. Causation
B.4.a. Causation – the legal principle that the criminal act is the
act that is the cause of the harm; factual and legal
B.4.b. Two types
B.4.b.i. Factual cause – the idea that “but for” the actor’s conduct,
the harm would not have occurred; it is an initial act that
sets a series of other acts in motion that leads to some
harm; necessary but not sufficient element for the
imposition of criminal liability; legal cause must also exist
B.4.b.ii. Legal (proximate) cause – the proximity in time between
the accused’s actions and the ultimate degree of harm
caused to the victim; question often asked in such cases is
“for which act does it seem fair and just to hold the actor
accountable?”; consequences of an act are not reasonable
foreseeable to the actor are “intervening causes” and may
serve to relieve the actor of criminal liability
B.5. Harm
B.5.a. Harm – the result of the act, the injury to another
B.5.b. Occurs in all crimes, even so-called “victimless” crimes
(physical or mental harm)
VI. Liability Without Fault
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