Monday, December 19, 2005

Outline - Criminal Law - VIII - Defenses

Criminal Law (2005 Fall)


Both the actual and proximate causes must be met. The first is about possibility; the second is about judgment.

  1. Justification - lesser harms, necessity
    1. Self Defense
      1. Threat of death or serious bodily injury
      2. Immediate
      3. Honest belief that imminent force is necessary
      4. Objectively reasonable

      Goetz – Defendant shot 4 black youths on subway thinking they were going to rob him. Self defense requires objective reasonableness, and proportionality (use only force reasonably believed necessary).

    2. Battered Woman’s Syndrome (see also excuse)
      1. Admissibility of expert testimony on BWS
        1. Educate jury about what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances
        2. Goes to credibility of defendant
        3. Standard still objective reasonable person
      2. Some courts go further, permit BWS to be used as a subjective standard, evaluate reasonableness from the perspective of battered woman, not reasonable person.

      Kelly – Woman killed abusive husband thinking he was going to hurt her.

  2. Excuse - concession to human frailty
    1. Duress
      1. Common Law
        1. Threat of death or serious bodily injury
        2. “Present, imminent, and pending”
        3. Reasonable
      2. MPC § 2.09 – “Reasonable firmness” standard, permits both justification (lesser evils) and duress (threat of harm from another) [Toscano – Doctor in insurance fraud entitled to jury trial over whether his actions met “reasonable firmness” standard.]
      3. Source – Duress must spring from coercion by another person; natural events do not count.
      4. Imminence
        1. Fleming – POW who aided enemy broadcasts not under duress when only threats were used.
        2. Contento-Pacho – Defendant who swallowed balloons of cocaine under reasonable belief coercer would carry out threats did not have reasonable opportunity to escape.
        3. Ruzic – Canadian court invalidated imminence requirement as too restrictive.
    2. BWS – Courts split over whether it should be excuse as well as justification. Requirement of fear of imminent great bodily harm exists in both.
  3. Intoxication
    1. General Rule – Intoxication is a defense to purpose and knowledge (specific intent), but not to recklessness or negligence (general intent). [Kingston]
    2. Hood – Assault is an “attempt”, but is not a specific intent offense for intoxication cases.
    3. Egelhoff – Excluding intoxication defense for “deliberate homicide” upheld if statute redefined by precluding voluntary intoxication, but may be unconstitutional for precluding defendant from mounting defense.

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