Kentucky Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Kentucky Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

I. Principles of Criminal Liability

A. Actus Reus (Guilty Act)
– Definition: The actual performance of a criminal act.
– Kentucky Application: Must be a voluntary act or a qualifying omission (Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) § 501.020).

B. Mens Rea (Guilty Mind)
– Definition: The mental state or intent to commit a crime.
– Levels of Mens Rea:
1. Purposefully: conscious object to cause a result (KRS § 501.020).
2. Knowingly: awareness that conduct will cause a result (KRS § 501.020).
3. Recklessly: conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk (KRS § 501.020).
4. Negligently: failure to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk (KRS § 501.020).

C. Strict Liability Offenses
– Definition: Crimes requiring no proof of mens rea.
– Kentucky Application: Typically in regulatory offenses or where there is clear legislative intent.

D. Causation
– Actual Cause: The cause-in-fact or “but for” cause.
– Proximate Cause: The legal cause or cause recognized by law for responsibility.
– Kentucky Overdose Prosecution: KRS § 218A.1412 allows for homicide charges if the distribution of a controlled substance is the proximate cause of an overdose death.

II. Homicide

A. Murder (KRS § 507.020)
– Intentional killing with premeditation and deliberation.

B. Manslaughter in the First Degree (KRS § 507.030)
– Intentional killing without premeditation, often in the heat of passion.

C. Manslaughter in the Second Degree (KRS § 507.040)
– Reckless killing or causing death under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.

D. Reckless Homicide (KRS § 507.050)
– Killing with recklessness but without intent.

III. Sexual Offenses

A. Rape (KRS § 510.040)
– Non-consensual sexual intercourse, with different degrees depending on factors such as force, victim’s age, or incapacity.

B. Sexual Abuse (KRS § 510.110)
– Subjecting another person to sexual contact without consent.

IV. Inchoate Offenses

A. Attempt (KRS § 506.010)
– Definition: Intentionally engaging in conduct which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of a crime.
– Factual Impossibility: Not a defense in Kentucky.

B. Conspiracy (KRS § 506.040)
– Definition: Agreeing with one or more persons to commit a crime and performing an overt act in furtherance of that agreement.

C. Solicitation (KRS § 506.030)
– Definition: Commanding, hiring, or encouraging another person to commit a crime.

V. Defenses to Criminal Liability

A. Justification
1. Self-Defense (KRS § 503.050)
– Use of force in defense of self or others when there is a belief of imminent unlawful force.
2. Defense of Property (KRS § 503.080)
– Use of force to prevent or terminate unlawful entry or attack on premises.

B. Excuse
1. Insanity (KRS § 504.020)
– Exemption from liability if at the time of conduct, due to mental illness, one lacks capacity to appreciate wrongfulness or conform conduct to the law.
2. Intoxication (KRS § 501.070)
– Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to criminal liability; involuntary intoxication may be.

C. Infancy (KRS § 500.050)
– Kentucky has a set age below which children are considered incapable of criminal intent.

VI. Case Law

A significant aspect of criminal law education in the United States involves the analysis of case law to understand how legal principles are applied in specific circumstances. Here are a couple of illustrative cases, analyzed using the IRAC format:

  1. Commonwealth v. Harrelson (Ky. 2016)
    Issue: Whether the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for assault under Kentucky law.
    Rule: A person is guilty of assault in Kentucky when they intentionally cause physical injury to another person.
    Application: The court considered testimonial evidence and the extent of the victim’s injuries to determine that Harrelson had the required intent.
    Conclusion: The Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the conviction for assault.

  2. Dillard v. Commonwealth (Ky. 2017)
    Issue: Whether the defendant’s actions constituted a substantial step toward the commission of a crime, requisite for an attempt charge.
    Rule: An attempt in Kentucky requires an act or omission constituting a substantial step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in the commission of the crime.
    Application: The court evaluated Dillard’s conduct leading up to the stopped offense and found that it met the statutory threshold for an attempt.
    Conclusion: The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the attempt conviction.

VII. Studying and Exam Preparation Tips

  • Understand the elements of each crime and defense.
  • Memorize key statutes and their interpretations.
  • Analyze case law to grasp practical applications of legal principles.
  • Take practice exams to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions.
  • Form study groups to discuss and clarify complex topics.
  • Consult Kentucky-specific criminal law commentaries and treatises for deeper insight.

This guide provides an overview of essential criminal law concepts, the relevant Kentucky statutes, and a method for analyzing case law that should serve as a solid foundation for 1L criminal law exam preparation.

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