Idaho Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Idaho Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Introduction to Criminal Law

Criminal law encompasses the rules and statutes written by Congress and state legislators dealing with any criminal activity that causes harm to the general public, with penalties. It is important to distinguish criminal law from civil law, where criminal sanctions are sought not to compensate injured individuals but to enforce public order and standards of behavior.

The Model Penal Code (MPC)

While Idaho law does not adopt the Model Penal Code in full, the MPC is a crucial resource as it influences many states’ statutes and provides a common framework for the understanding of American criminal law. Provisions from the MPC are sometimes compared or contrasted with state-specific statutes.

Idaho Criminal Statutes

Idaho criminal law is primarily codified in Title 18 of the Idaho Code. It contains the state’s criminal statutes, defining offenses, defenses, and principles of criminal responsibility.

Elements of a Crime

Mens Rea (Guilty Mind)

  • Intent: Purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent as classifications of mental states.
  • Strict Liability: Offenses that do not require a mens rea.

Actus Reus (Guilty Act)

  • Voluntary Act: A conscious, willful movement.
  • Omission as Basis for Liability: Failure to act when there is a legal duty to act.


  • Temporal Relationship: The requirement that the mens rea and actus reus occur simultaneously.



  • First-Degree Murder: Deliberate and premeditated killing.
  • Second-Degree Murder: Intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned.


  • Voluntary Manslaughter: Killing in the heat of passion.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: Killing resulting from recklessness or criminal negligence.

Felony Murder

  • Rule: Any death that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony is murder.

Idaho Specifics

  • Idaho distinguishes between degrees of murder and includes “justifiable homicide” under certain circumstances, as outlined in Idaho Code § 18-4001, et seq.

Assault and Battery

  • Assault: An attempt or threat to do a corporeal injury to another.
  • Battery: Actual physical contact with another person without their consent.

Theft and Fraud


  • Definition: The trespassory taking and carrying away of personal property of another with the intent to deprive them of it permanently.


  • Definition: Fraudulent conversion of property of another by a person in lawful possession of that property.

False Pretenses

  • Definition: Obtaining title to property of another by an intentional (or knowing) false statement of past or existing fact, with intent to defraud the other.

Defenses to Criminal Liability

Justification and Excuse

  • Self-Defense: Defense of oneself when facing unlawful force.
  • Defense of Others: Defense of another person from unlawful force.
  • Necessity: Conduct that would otherwise be criminal is justifiable if, as a result of pressure from natural forces, the defendant reasonably believes the conduct was necessary to avoid a greater societal harm.


  • M’Naghten Rule: A defendant must have been suffering from a severe mental defect or disease at the time of the crime, making them unable to know the nature and quality of the act or to understand that it was wrong.
  • Irresistible Impulse: The defendant was unable to control his actions or conform his conduct to the law.
  • Durham Rule/New Hampshire Rule: The crime was the product of mental disease or defect.
  • Model Penal Code Test for Insanity: A combination of the M’Naghten and Irresistible Impulse tests with an emphasis on the defendant’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of their conduct or to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.


  • Voluntary Intoxication: Intoxication by substances known to be intoxicating is generally not a defense, although it may be used to negate specific intent in some jurisdictions.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: A valid defense if it can be shown that the defendant had no reason to know that they would become intoxicated.


  • Children under a certain age (which varies by jurisdiction) are presumed incapable of committing a crime under the doctrine of “infancy.”

Case Law and IRAC Examples

State v. Klapal (Idaho 1996)

  • Issue: Whether the defendant’s actions constituted “deliberate cruelty” as required for an enhanced sentence for first-degree murder in Idaho.
  • Rule: The Idaho statute requires that the murder be “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman” to qualify for an enhanced sentence.
  • Analysis: The court examined the heinousness of the crime, the defendant’s actions, and the suffering of the victim.
  • Conclusion: The court upheld the enhanced sentence based on the evidence of the defendant’s deliberate cruelty.

State v. Card (Idaho 2001)

  • Issue: Whether the defendant’s mental state at the time of the killing met the standard for “malice aforethought” in second-degree murder.
  • Rule: Malice aforethought can be established by evidence of conduct which shows a “reckless disregard for human life.”
  • Analysis: The court considered the defendant’s actions and mental state leading up to the fatal event.
  • Conclusion: The court found sufficient evidence of malice aforethought to support a conviction for second-degree murder.

Idaho v. Charboneau (Idaho 1980)

  • Issue: Whether the trial court erred in refusing to give instructions on lesser included offenses.
  • Rule: A defendant is entitled to an instruction on a lesser included offense if the evidence presented would permit a jury rationally to find them guilty of the lesser offense but not the greater.
  • Analysis: The court examined the evidence presented at trial and whether it supported the lesser offenses.
  • Conclusion: The court found that the trial court erred and the defendant was entitled to instructions on the lesser included offenses.

This study guide provides a broad overview of the concepts and case law that are generally covered in a 1L criminal law course with specific attention to Idaho law. It is important for students to review statutory language, read and brief cases, and understand how Idaho law may differ from the general principles of criminal law. Mastery of the material requires diligent study and analysis of both Idaho statutes and relevant case law.

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