Delaware Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Delaware Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Actus Reus (Guilty Act)

  • Definition: A voluntary physical act, an omission to act, or a state of being that is prohibited by law.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Title 11, Section 231 of the Delaware Code states that a person is guilty of an offense only if it is a result of voluntary conduct.

Mens Rea (Guilty Mind)

  • Definition: The state of mind that the prosecution must prove that a defendant had when committing a crime.
  • Relevant Concepts: Intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, negligently.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Title 11, Sections 231 and 251 of the Delaware Code outlines the required mental states.

Strict Liability Offenses

  • Definition: Offenses that do not require mens rea regarding at least one element of the actus reus.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Examples include statutory rape and traffic violations.


  • Definition: The unlawful killing of another person.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Delaware classifies homicide into varying degrees including murder first degree, murder second degree, manslaughter, and negligent homicide (Title 11, Chapter 5 of the Delaware Code).

Murder First Degree

  • Relevant Delaware Case Law:
    • Case: State v. Cohen (Del. 2000)
    • IRAC:
    • Issue: Whether premeditation and deliberation were present to qualify for first degree murder.
    • Rule: Under Delaware law, first degree murder requires the unlawful killing of a person with intent and premeditation.
    • Analysis: Evidence of planning and a predetermined motive to kill were present indicating premeditation and deliberation.
    • Conclusion: The court upheld the first degree murder conviction.

Murder Second Degree

  • Relevant Delaware Law: Intentional but not premeditated killings fall under second degree murder.


  • Relevant Delaware Law: A lesser homicide charge involving recklessness or sudden heat of passion.

Negligent Homicide

  • Relevant Delaware Law: Causing the death of another through negligent conduct.

Assault and Battery

  • Definition:
    • Assault: An attempt to cause physical injury to another; causing physical injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.
    • Battery: The physical contact with another person with intent to cause injury or offensive contact.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Title 11, Chapter 6 of the Delaware Code discusses assault and related offenses.

Rape and Sexual Assault

  • Definition: Non-consensual sexual intercourse or sexual conduct.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Title 11, Chapter 5 outlines the degrees of sexual offenses.

Theft and Robbery

  • Definition:
    • Theft: Unlawfully taking or exercising control over property of another with intent to deprive them of it.
    • Robbery: Theft involving violence or the threat of violence.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Title 11, Chapter 5 for robbery and Chapter 8 for theft.


Justification and Excuse

  • Justification: Argues that the actions were right under the circumstances (e.g., self-defense).
  • Excuse: Argues that the defendant should not be held fully responsible due to circumstances (e.g., insanity, duress).


  • Relevant Delaware Law: Delaware follows the traditional common law self-defense rules, including the duty to retreat if safe to do so, except in one’s home (Castle Doctrine).


  • Relevant Delaware Law: Follows the M’Naghten Rule, which requires proving that the defendant did not understand the nature and quality of the act or did not know it was wrong.


  • Relevant Delaware Law: A defense that the defendant was forced to commit a crime under threat of imminent harm.


  • Relevant Delaware Law: Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime that they would not have otherwise committed.


Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

  • Relevant Concepts: Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures; warrants based on probable cause.
  • Relevant Delaware Case Law:
    • Case: Jones v. Delaware (Del. 2006)
    • IRAC:
    • Issue: Whether the search was conducted with a valid warrant and probable cause.
    • Rule: The Fourth Amendment requires that searches be conducted with a warrant supported by probable cause.
    • Analysis: The police had a detailed affidavit supporting the issuance of the warrant.
    • Conclusion: The search was upheld as constitutional.

Fifth Amendment Rights

  • Relevant Concepts: Protection against self-incrimination; Miranda rights.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: Delaware has codified these rights in conformity with the U.S. Constitution.

Sixth Amendment Rights

  • Relevant Concepts: The right to a speedy trial, public trial, an impartial jury, to confront witnesses, and to have assistance of counsel.
  • Relevant Delaware Law: These rights are ensured by the Delaware Constitution and the Delaware Rules of Criminal Procedure.


This study guide presents an overview of the main concepts in a 1L Criminal Law course, focusing specifically on Delaware law. It is important to delve deeper into each topic, scrutinize the relevant statutes, and analyze additional case law to develop a thorough understanding of Delaware’s criminal law principles in preparation for a final semester exam.

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