Alaska Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law
I. Introduction to Criminal Law
Purpose and Sources:
– Understand the purposes of criminal law: deterrence, punishment, rehabilitation, and incapacitation.
– Familiarize with sources of criminal law: statutes, constitutions, and case law.
Jurisdiction and the Principle of Legality:
– Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to hear a case and is a concept crucial to determining where a crime can be prosecuted.
– The Principle of Legality requires that laws be clear, ascertainable, and not retroactive. No crime or punishment without law.
II. The Criminal Act (Actus Reus)
Voluntary Act Requirement:
– A criminal act must be voluntary for it to be punishable. Involuntary acts, such as reflexive or convulsive actions, are not criminal acts.
– An omission can be a criminal act if there is a legal duty to act (statutory duty, contract, relationship, voluntary assumption of care, creation of peril).
– No case law specific to Alaska, but look at People v. Beardsley, 150 Mich. 206, 113 N.W. 1128 (1907) for an example of the application of legal duty.
– Actual possession (physical control) and constructive possession (ability and intent to exercise control) can be considered an act.
III. The Criminal Mind (Mens Rea)
General Intent vs. Specific Intent:
– General Intent: The intent to commit the actus reus of the crime.
– Specific Intent: The intent to achieve a specific result beyond the actus reus.
Model Penal Code (MPC) Levels of Culpability:
– Purpose, Knowledge, Recklessness, and Negligence.
– Offenses that do not require mens rea; the act itself is sufficient for guilt.
Mistake of Fact/Law:
– A mistake of fact is a defense if it negates the required mens rea.
– Mistake of law is generally not a defense unless it negates the mens rea or a statute expressly allows it.
– First-degree murder includes premeditated killings, felony murder, and certain other statutorily defined murders.
– Second-degree murder includes intentional killings that are not premeditated, and deaths caused by reckless disregard for human life.
– Voluntary manslaughter involves a killing in the “heat of passion” in response to adequate provocation.
– Involuntary manslaughter involves a killing that results from criminal negligence or during the commission of a crime that is not a felony.
Felony Murder Rule:
– A person commits murder if a death results from conduct during the commission, or attempted commission, of a felony.
V. Other Crimes Against Persons
Assault and Battery:
– Assault: An attempt to commit a battery or intentionally placing another in fear of imminent bodily harm.
– Battery: The unlawful application of force to another person resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching.
Rape and Sexual Assault:
– In Alaska, the law defines sexual assault in several degrees, and consent is a critical factor.
False Imprisonment and Kidnapping:
– False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement.
– Kidnapping is the taking and carrying away of a person by force, threat, or deception with the intent to hold for ransom, use as a shield or hostage, or facilitate the commission of a felony.
VI. Inchoate Offenses
– An attempt requires the intent to commit a crime and a substantial step towards committing the crime.
– The act of inviting, requesting, or commanding another person to commit a crime.
– An agreement between two or more people to commit a crime.
VII. Defenses to Criminal Liability
Justification and Excuse:
– Justifications include self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, necessity, and consent.
– Excuses include duress, age, intoxication, insanity, and diminished capacity.
– In Alaska, there is a “stand your ground” law, meaning there is no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense in any place a person has a right to be.
– The M’Naghten Rule, Irresistible Impulse Test, Durham Rule, and Model Penal Code Test are various tests for insanity used in different jurisdictions.
VIII. Accomplice Liability and Vicarious Liability
– An accomplice is one who intentionally assists another in the commission of a crime.
– Holding one person liable for the conduct of another based on a relationship, such as employer-employee.
IX. Case Law Analysis (IRAC Method)
Example Case: State v. Hazelwood, 946 P.2d 875 (Alaska 1997)
Issue: Whether the captain of a ship was correctly convicted of negligent discharge of oil under Alaska law.
Rule: Alaska law provides for the criminal negligence standard in the discharge of oil, which requires a gross deviation from the standard of care.
Analysis: The court held that Captain Hazelwood’s actions in leaving control of the ship to an unlicensed third mate while intoxicated demonstrated a gross deviation from the standard of care.
Conclusion: The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, emphasizing the importance of adherence to safety standards to prevent environmental harm.
Prepare for your exam by applying the IRAC method to analyze hypothetical situations and cases you have studied. Understand the elements of each crime, the defenses that are available, and how the laws of Alaska may differ from those of other jurisdictions. Good luck!