Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

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.

IV. Concurrence

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.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading