Maryland Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Maryland Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

I. Sources of Criminal Law

A. Constitutional Provisions:
– Understand key amendments: Fourth (search and seizure), Fifth (self-incrimination, double jeopardy),
Sixth (right to a speedy trial, confrontation of witnesses), Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment), and
Fourteenth (due process and equal protection)
– Maryland Declaration of Rights, especially Articles 22 and 24 concerning due process and legal justice

B. Maryland Criminal Law Article:
– Primary source of statutory law on crimes and punishments
– Distinctions between felonies and misdemeanors, statutory elements of crimes

C. Common Law:
– Recognize Maryland’s partial adherence to common law principles in criminal law
– Differentiate where Maryland has codified criminal offenses, diverging from common law

II. Principles of Criminal Liability

A. Actus Reus (Guilty Act):
– Understand the requirement of a voluntary act or an omission where there is a legal duty to act
– Case: Martin v. State: A person cannot be criminally liable for an involuntary act such as being forced outside by police

B. Mens Rea (Guilty Mind):
– Differentiate between specific intent, general intent, negligence, and strict liability offenses
– Understand the Model Penal Code (MPC) levels of culpability: purposely, knowingly, recklessly, negligently

C. Concurrence:
– The principle that the actus reus and mens rea must occur simultaneously

D. Causation:
– Actual Cause: The “but for” test
– Proximate Cause: Legal causation, foreseeability, and intervening causes

III. Homicide

A. Murder:
– First Degree: Premeditated, deliberate killings, and specific felony murders
– Second Degree: All other murders
– Case: Fisher v. State: Establishes the premeditation and deliberation required for first-degree murder

B. Manslaughter:
– Voluntary: Intentional killings in the heat of passion or during a sudden quarrel
– Involuntary: Unintentional killings resulting from recklessness or criminal negligence

C. Felony Murder Rule:
– Liability for deaths occurring during the commission of certain felonies
– Understanding of inherently dangerous felonies and the limits of the rule in Maryland

IV. Inchoate Offenses

A. Attempt:
– Actions beyond mere preparation, demonstrating intent to commit a crime
– The substantial step test or proximity test used in Maryland

B. Conspiracy:
– An agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime
– Case: Kotteakos v. United States: Defines a single conspiracy and the chain/link distinction

C. Solicitation:
– Encouraging, requesting, or commanding another to commit a crime

V. Parties to Crime

A. Principal in the First Degree:
– The individual who actually commits the crime

B. Principal in the Second Degree:
– Present at the crime scene and assists in the commission of the crime

C. Accessory Before the Fact:
– One who aids, counsels, or encourages the principal and is not present during the crime

D. Accessory After the Fact:
– One who assists the principal after the commission of the crime

VI. Defenses

A. Justifications and Excuses:
– Self-defense: The use of force in defense of oneself
– Defense of others: The use of force in defense of another person
– Defense of property: The use of force to protect one’s property
– Necessity: Committing a lesser crime to avoid the harm of a greater crime
– Duress: Committing a crime under the threat of immediate force
– Insanity: Lack of criminal responsibility due to a mental disorder at the time of the offense

B. Mistake:
– Mistake of Fact: A defense when the mistake negates the required mens rea
– Mistake of Law: Generally, not a defense, except where it negates specific intent

C. Intoxication:
– Voluntary: Rarely a defense, may negate specific intent in specific intent crimes
– Involuntary: Can be a defense if it prevents the formation of mens rea

VII. Specific Crimes and Issues in Maryland

A. Assault and Battery:
– Distinction between assault (attempted or threatened battery) and battery (unlawful touching)
– Understanding the degrees of assault and Maryland-specific statutes

B. Theft and Property Offenses:
– Distinctions between larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, and robbery
– Maryland-specific laws relating to theft and property crimes

C. Sex Offenses:
– Understanding the elements of rape, statutory rape, and other sexual offenses under Maryland law
– Consent as a defense and associated issues

D. Drug Crimes:
– Understanding Maryland’s Controlled Dangerous Substances Act
– Distinctions between possession, possession with intent to distribute, and trafficking

This study guide covers the essentials of Criminal Law as taught in Maryland law schools. However, students are encouraged to complement this guide with their class notes, casebooks, and statutory materials to prepare for their specific course examinations. Additionally, staying updated with any legislative changes or jurisprudence developments is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of Maryland Criminal Law.

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