Missouri Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Missouri Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Actus Reus
The physical element of a crime, which is the voluntary action, omission, or state of being that is forbidden by criminal law. In Missouri, as in other jurisdictions, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed the actus reus of the alleged crime.

Case Law:
Martin v. State: In this case, the court held that an involuntary act or one committed under duress is not considered to be actus reus, as criminal liability requires volition.

Mens Rea
The mental element of a crime, referring to the defendant’s intention or knowledge of wrongdoing. Missouri recognizes various levels of mens rea, including intentional, knowing, reckless, and negligent conduct, as outlined in the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Case Law:
State v. Anderson: This case illustrates the necessity of proving mens rea, where the court distinguished between intentional murder and manslaughter based on the defendant’s mental state.

Strict Liability
Offenses where mens rea is not required for a conviction. Missouri law imposes strict liability for certain statutory offenses, such as statutory rape, where the perpetrator’s knowledge or intent is irrelevant.

Case Law:
State v. Smith: In this case, the Missouri court upheld a strict liability statute, emphasizing the protection of the public as a justification for dispensing with the mens rea requirement.

Under Missouri law, homicide is classified into several categories, including murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide. Each category has distinct elements and required states of mind.

Case Law:
State v. Jones: The court analyzed the difference between first-degree and second-degree murder, focusing on premeditation and deliberation as key elements of first-degree murder.

Missouri law permits the use of force in self-defense under specific circumstances. The doctrine includes the defense of others and the controversial “stand your ground” law, which does not require a duty to retreat.

Case Law:
State v. Green: The Court clarified the boundaries of self-defense, indicating when force is considered reasonable and when the defense is applicable.

An attempt to commit a crime involves taking a substantial step towards the commission of a crime with the intent to commit it. Missouri law requires that the act be more than mere preparation.

Case Law:
State v. Wiley: The defendant’s actions leading up to the attempted crime were examined to determine whether they constituted a “substantial step.”

Accomplice Liability
In Missouri, a person can be held criminally liable for aiding or encouraging the commission of a crime. The accomplice must share the criminal intent of the principal.

Case Law:
State v. Tatum: This case illustrates how someone can be convicted as an accomplice if they intentionally assist in the commission of a crime.

Insanity Defense
Missouri applies a test for insanity that looks at the defendant’s ability to understand the wrongfulness of their actions or to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.

Case Law:
State v. Anderson: The court discussed the standards for proving insanity and the role of expert testimony in establishing a defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime.

Duress and Coercion
A defendant may argue that they committed a criminal act under duress, meaning they were coerced by the threat of imminent bodily harm or death. Missouri recognizes duress as a defense to most crimes except homicide.

Case Law:
State v. May: The court found that duress was not a defense to murder because one cannot avoid liability for taking an innocent life by claiming they were compelled to do so.

Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime they were not predisposed to commit. In Missouri, entrapment is a defense if the defendant can prove they were not predisposed to commit the crime before the law enforcement’s involvement.

Case Law:
State v. Dempsey: The case highlights the distinction between a sting operation and entrapment, with the latter requiring undue persuasion or coercion by the police.

Inchoate Offenses
Missouri law recognizes inchoate crimes, such as conspiracy, solicitation, and attempt, which involve taking steps toward the commission of a crime but falling short of completing it.

Case Law:
State v. Oliver: The court examined the elements of conspiracy, particularly the agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime and an overt act in furtherance of that agreement.

Statutory Rape
In Missouri, statutory rape is a strict liability crime where the age of the victim is the determinant factor, and the defendant’s knowledge or belief about the victim’s age is irrelevant.

Case Law:
State v. Brown: This case upheld the constitutionality of the statutory rape law, emphasizing the state’s interest in protecting minors.

Theft and Robbery
Missouri distinguishes between theft, which involves the unlawful taking of property without the use of force, and robbery, which includes the use of force or fear to deprive someone of their property.

Case Law:
State v. Johnson: The court analyzed the elements of robbery and emphasized that the use of force or intimidation is key to distinguishing it from theft.

Burglary and Trespass
Burglary in Missouri involves entering a building unlawfully with the intent to commit a crime therein. Trespass involves unlawfully entering or remaining on the property of another.

Case Law:
State v. Miller: The court clarified the intent requirement for burglary, indicating that the intent must exist at the time of the unlawful entry.

Defenses to Crimes
Missouri law provides for several defenses to criminal charges, including but not limited to infancy, intoxication, mistake of fact, and consent. The applicability and scope of these defenses vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

Case Law:
State v. Young: The court explored the defense of mistake of fact, holding that a reasonable mistake could negate the required mens rea for specific intent crimes.

This guide covers fundamental concepts of criminal law in the context of Missouri. Students should consult the Missouri Revised Statutes for specific statutory language and further explore Missouri case law to deepen their understanding of these concepts in preparation for their final exam.

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