Louisiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Louisiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Introduction to Louisiana Criminal Law
Louisiana criminal law is based on both statutory law and judicial opinions. Unlike other states, Louisiana is a civil law jurisdiction influenced by the French and Spanish legal traditions, which means it does not follow the common law tradition. The primary source of criminal law in Louisiana is the Louisiana Criminal Code, which must be studied in conjunction with relevant Louisiana case law.

I. Principles of Criminal Liability
A. Actus Reus and Mens Rea
Actus reus refers to the physical element or the act of committing a crime, while mens rea is the mental element or the intent to commit the crime. Louisiana law requires both elements for a defendant to be criminally liable.

B. Types of Mens Rea
Under Louisiana law, different crimes may require different levels of intent, including specific intent, general intent, and criminal negligence. Specific intent implies the defendant had the precise objective to cause a certain result, while general intent merely requires that the defendant had the intent to perform the act. Criminal negligence refers to conduct where the defendant fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the law prohibits.

C. Strict Liability
Strict liability offenses do not require mens rea. In Louisiana, certain offenses may be deemed strict liability, where the prosecution only needs to prove the actus reus.

II. Homicide
A. First-Degree Murder
Louisiana defines first-degree murder as a killing committed with specific intent under particular aggravating circumstances, such as during the commission of another felony or targeting certain protected individuals like police officers.

B. Second-Degree Murder
Second-degree murder is a killing done with specific intent but without the aggravating circumstances required for first-degree murder.

C. Manslaughter
Manslaughter is a homicide committed without premeditation, often in the heat of passion or as a result of provocation that would diminish the capacity for self-control in an average person.

D. Negligent Homicide
Negligent homicide occurs when a death results from criminal negligence, representing a lower degree of culpability than manslaughter.

III. The Principle of Legality
Louisiana adheres to the principle of legality, meaning that no behavior can be criminal unless a law defines it as such, and laws must be sufficiently clear and definite.

IV. Parties to Crime
A. Principals and Accessories
In Louisiana, principals are those who engage in the act or omission that constitutes the offense, while accessories are those who, with knowledge, assist or facilitate the commission of a crime.

B. Complicity
Complicity refers to the legal doctrine holding individuals liable for crimes they did not physically commit but contributed to as an accomplice.

V. Inchoate Offenses
A. Attempt
An attempt in Louisiana involves an individual taking a substantial step towards the commission of a crime with specific intent to complete the crime.

B. Conspiracy
Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime. In Louisiana, an overt act towards the commission of the crime is required.

C. Solicitation
Solicitation involves encouraging, requesting, or commanding another person to commit a crime with the intent that the crime be committed.

VI. Defenses to Criminal Liability
A. Justification and Excuse Defenses
Justification defenses, such as self-defense, operate on the premise that the defendant’s actions were not wrong under the circumstances. Excuse defenses, like insanity, acknowledge the wrongfulness of the action but claim that the defendant should not be held responsible due to some personal condition or circumstance.

B. Insanity Defense
The insanity defense in Louisiana follows the M’Naghten Rule, which states that an accused is not criminally responsible if, at the time of the offense, they were incapable of distinguishing right from wrong due to a mental defect.

C. Intoxication
Intoxication may be a defense in Louisiana if it negates the required mens rea for a specific intent crime.

VII. Case Law in Louisiana Criminal Law
Case law interpretation is vital in understanding how Louisiana courts apply statutes. The following are hypothetical examples analyzed using the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion) format:

Case: State v. Smith
Issue: Whether Smith, who was in an altercation, can claim self-defense for fatally stabbing the victim.
Rule: Under Louisiana law, a person may use force in self-defense if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent unlawful force against themselves.
Analysis: Smith’s belief that the victim was about to attack was based on the victim’s verbal threats and aggressive advance. Smith did not provoke the altercation and attempted to retreat before using force.
Conclusion: Smith may successfully claim self-defense as his actions were reasonable under the circumstances.

Case: State v. Johnson
Issue: Whether Johnson can be convicted of first-degree murder for a killing that occurred during a bank robbery.
Rule: First-degree murder in Louisiana includes a killing committed during the perpetration of certain felonies, including robbery.
Analysis: Johnson was engaged in the bank robbery when the victim was killed. Although Johnson did not pull the trigger, under the felony murder rule, he is liable for murder committed by an accomplice during the felony.
Conclusion: Johnson can be convicted of first-degree murder even if he did not personally commit the homicide.

This study guide provides an overview of fundamental concepts in Louisiana criminal law, but it is imperative to review class notes, read the relevant statutes, and analyze case law to prepare comprehensively for the final exam.

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