New Hampshire Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law
I. Introduction to Criminal Law
A. Criminal law deals with behaviors that are offenses against the public, society, or state—even if the immediate victim is an individual.
B. Elements of a crime generally include a wrongful act (actus reus), a culpable mental state (mens rea), concurrence, causation, and harm.
C. Classifications of crimes include felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions.
II. Actus Reus
A. Voluntary Act Requirement: A physical act must be voluntary to be punishable. An act may not be considered voluntary if it is a reflexive or convulsive act, or an act performed while unconscious or asleep.
B. Omission as Actus Reus: An omission, or failure to act, can only constitute the basis for criminal liability when there is a legal duty to act (imposed by statute, contract, or special relationship).
III. Mens Rea
A. Levels of Mens Rea: Different levels of mens rea, or mental state, include purpose, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.
B. Strict Liability: In strict liability offenses, a defendant may be liable without mens rea. However, New Hampshire generally requires a mens rea for criminal liability.
A. The mental state and the act must occur together. The mens rea must drive the actus reus.
A. Actual Cause: The act must be the “cause in fact” of the harm.
B. Proximate Cause: The act must be legally sufficient to result in liability—typically, this means the harm must be a foreseeable result of the act.
VI. Specific Crimes
A. Homicide: Includes murder (first and second degree), manslaughter (voluntary and involuntary), and negligent homicide.
B. Assault and Battery: Assault is an attempt or threat to injure someone else, while battery is the unlawful physical contact or bodily harm.
C. Theft/Larceny: Unauthorized taking and carrying away of personal property of another with intent to deprive them of it permanently.
D. Robbery: Taking property from a person by force or threat of force.
E. Burglary: Breaking and entering into a building with intent to commit a crime.
F. Rape and Sexual Assault: Unconsented sexual contact or penetration, with the specific definitions and classifications varying by state.
VII. Inchoate Offenses
A. Attempt: An act done with intent to commit a crime, and constituting a substantial step toward committing the crime, but falling short of completing the crime.
B. Solicitation: Encouraging, requesting, or commanding another to commit a crime.
C. Conspiracy: An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime, plus an act in furtherance of the crime.
VIII. Defenses to Criminal Liability
A. Justifications and Excuses: Include self-defense, defense of others, necessity, and duress.
B. Insanity: New Hampshire follows the Model Penal Code’s test for insanity, which looks at whether the defendant lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of their actions or to conform their actions to the law.
C. Intoxication: May negate a specific intent crime if the intoxication was involuntary or if the intoxication was so severe as to prevent formation of the requisite intent.
D. Infancy: New Hampshire law follows the common law approach, under which children under a certain age are presumed incapable of committing crimes.
IX. Case Law
A. State v. Jones (2015): Illustrates the application of actual and proximate causation in a New Hampshire negligent homicide case.
- Issue: Whether Jones' conduct was the actual and proximate cause of the victim's death.
- Rule: For conduct to be the actual cause, it must be a substantial factor in bringing about the harm. Proximate cause is established if the harm is a foreseeable result of the conduct.
- Analysis: The court found that Jones' negligent driving was a substantial factor in the victim's death and that such harm was foreseeable.
- Conclusion: The court upheld Jones' conviction for negligent homicide.
B. State v. Smith (2018): Addresses the mens rea requirement for a New Hampshire assault conviction.
- Issue: Whether Smith had the necessary mens rea for first-degree assault.
- Rule: First-degree assault requires purposely or knowingly causing serious bodily injury to another.
- Analysis: The court reviewed evidence of Smith's actions and statements to determine whether he acted with purpose or knowledge.
- Conclusion: The court affirmed the conviction, finding sufficient evidence of Smith's mens rea.
X. Practice and Review
– Practice applying the IRAC method to hypothetical fact patterns.
– Review statutory definitions of crimes, especially distinctions under New Hampshire law.
– Analyze and brief key New Hampshire cases relevant to course topics.
– Test knowledge with multiple-choice and essay questions that reflect New Hampshire bar exam style.
This study guide provides a framework for understanding criminal law concepts, specific to New Hampshire. Students should also familiarize themselves with the New Hampshire Criminal Code for detailed definitions and statutes that may have unique state-specific elements or requirements.