Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law
I. Basic Principles of Criminal Law
A. The Nature of Crime: Understand the definition of a crime as conduct that, upon conviction, is punishable by either imprisonment or death.
B. Elements of a Crime: Review the essential components that must be established to prove a crime – actus reus (the criminal act), mens rea (the criminal intent), concurrence, causation, and harm.
C. Classification of Crimes: Study the categories of crimes, including felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions; and know the sentencing ranges for each classification in Montana.
II. Actus Reus
A. Voluntary Act Requirement: Examine the principle that a defendant must have engaged in a voluntary act that leads to the criminal outcome.
B. Omissions as Acts: Learn when the failure to act can constitute a breach of legal duty and thus actus reus.
C. Possession as an Act: Understand circumstances under which possession can be considered an act sufficient to satisfy actus reus.
III. Mens Rea
A. General Intent: Explore crimes that only require a general intention to commit the act.
B. Specific Intent: Study crimes that require not only the desire to perform an act but also the desire to achieve a specific result.
C. Recklessness and Negligence: Differentiate between recklessness (conscious disregard of a substantial risk) and negligence (failure to be aware of a substantial risk).
D. Montana’s Statutory Definitions: Familiarize yourself with Montana’s specific definitions and requirements for different levels of mens rea under Montana Code.
A. Temporal Relationship: Understand the requirement that the mens rea and actus reus must coincide in time.
B. Causation: Study the relationship between the defendant’s act and the outcome (both factual and legal causation).
V. Inchoate Offenses
A. Attempt: Learn about the crime of attempt, which involves taking a substantial step towards committing a crime with the specific intent to commit the crime.
B. Conspiracy: Examine the elements of conspiracy including an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime and an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
C. Solicitation: Understand the crime of solicitation as encouraging, requesting, or commanding another person to engage in conduct that would constitute a crime.
VI. Parties to Crime
A. Principals: Those who actually engage in the act or omission that constitutes the criminal offense.
B. Accomplices: Persons who aid, abet, encourage, or assist the principal offenders and can be held liable as parties to the crime.
C. Accessory after the Fact: Individuals who assist principal or accomplice after the crime has been committed.
VII. Defenses to Criminal Liability
A. Justification Defenses: Examine defenses like self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, and consent.
B. Excuse Defenses: Study excuses such as duress, intoxication, insanity, and infancy.
C. Montana’s Stand Your Ground Law: Understand the specifics of Montana’s self-defense laws including any duty to retreat and the use of force in defense of premises or property.
VIII. Specific Crimes and Case Law
A. Homicide: Distinguish between murder (with malice aforethought), manslaughter (voluntary and involuntary), and negligent homicide under Montana statutes.
B. Sexual Offenses: Understand the definitions and elements of crimes such as rape, sexual assault, and statutory rape in Montana.
C. Theft and Property Crimes: Study the various forms of theft (larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses), burglary, and arson.
D. Assault and Battery: Differentiate between assault (attempt or threat to cause harm) and battery (unlawful physical contact).
IX. Case Law Analysis Using IRAC
A. State v. Stuart (Montana, 1984):
– Issue: Whether the defendant’s conduct constituted a voluntary act sufficient to satisfy actus reus.
– Rule: Montana law requires a voluntary act for criminal liability.
– Analysis: The court considered whether Stuart’s actions were a product of his own volition.
– Conclusion: The court held Stuart’s actions were voluntary and satisfied the actus reus requirement for the charged offense.
B. State v. Greene (Montana, 1997):
– Issue: The specificity of intent required for a conviction of theft.
– Rule: Theft requires the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of property.
– Analysis: The court examined Greene’s actions and statements to infer intent.
– Conclusion: The court found sufficient evidence of specific intent to uphold the conviction.
X. Policy Considerations
A. The Purpose of Punishment: Understand theories such as retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.
B. The Role of Mens Rea: Consider the significance of intent in moral culpability and legal outcomes.
C. Proportionality: Review the principle that the punishment should fit the crime, especially as it applies in Montana.
XI. Review and Application
A. Practice Problems: Work through hypothetical scenarios, applying the concepts learned to analyze potential criminal liability.
B. Flashcards: Create flashcards for key terms, definitions, and elements of crimes to aid in memorization.
C. Past Exams: Study past Montana law school exams to familiarize yourself with the format and type of questions asked.
D. Outlining: Develop comprehensive outlines for each topic area studied, summarizing key points and case law.
This study guide is intended as a starting point for 1Ls in Montana to prepare for a criminal law exam. Students should supplement with readings, class notes, and statutory materials, and remain aware of any changes in the law or interpretations by the courts.