Title: Vermont Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law
I. Introduction to Criminal Law
Criminal law pertains to the society’s right to punish individuals for actions deemed harmful to its citizens. It is categorized into substantive and procedural criminal law.
II. Principles of Criminal Law
1. Actus Reus: It refers to the physical act of the crime. A person cannot be convicted of a crime unless it can be proven that they committed a criminal action.
2. Mens Rea: This refers to the mental intent to commit the crime. The prosecution must prove that the defendant had a guilty mind at the time the criminal act was committed.
III. Categories of Crimes
1. Felonies: These are serious crimes such as murder, rape, arson, etc, punishable by a year or more in prison.
2. Misdemeanors: These are lesser crimes, like petty theft or jaywalking, often punishable by fines or less than a year in jail.
Homicide laws in Vermont categorize murder into first degree (premeditated) and second degree (all other murders). Manslaughter includes both voluntary (heat of passion) and involuntary (reckless or negligent act).
V. Defenses to Criminal Charges
1. Insanity: A defendant may be found not guilty by reason of insanity if they were unable to understand the nature of their actions at the time of the crime.
2. Self-Defense: One may use reasonable force to protect themselves from harm.
3. Entrapment: Occurs when law enforcement persuades a person to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn’t have committed.
Case: State v. Springer, 168 Vt. 282 (1998)
In this case, the Vermont Supreme Court held that the defendant was entrapped into selling drugs to an undercover officer. Applying the IRAC method:
Issue: Did the police entrap the defendant into selling drugs?
Rule: Entrapment occurs when police induce a normally law-abiding person to commit a crime.
Application: The court found that the defendant was not predisposed to sell drugs and only did so due to the police officer’s persistent requests.
Conclusion: The court concluded that the defendant was entrapped.
VI. Theft and Burglary
In Vermont, theft involves the unauthorized taking of another’s property, while burglary involves entering a building unlawfully with intent to commit a crime.
VII. Rape and Sexual Assault
Rape is defined in Vermont as sexual penetration without the victim’s consent. A person is guilty of sexual assault if they engage in a sexual act with another person without their consent.
VIII. Perjury and Obstruction of Justice
Perjury involves lying under oath during a proceeding. Obstruction of justice involves any act that hinders the discovery, apprehension, conviction, or punishment of anyone who has committed a crime.
IX. Conspiracy, Solicitation, and Attempt
These are preparatory crimes. Conspiracy and solicitation involve agreement or encouragement to commit a crime, whereas an attempt is an act towards committing a crime.
X. White Collar Crimes
These include embezzlement, insider trading, and fraud. They are typically non-violent crimes committed by persons in professional or business capacities.
XI. Criminal Procedure
It includes the arrest, indictment, right to a speedy trial, double jeopardy, plea bargaining, right to counsel, and the sentencing process.
XII. Constitutional Protections
Criminal defendants are protected by several constitutional rights, including the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures), the Fifth Amendment (right against self-incrimination), and the Sixth Amendment (right to a fair and speedy trial).
Final Note: Always remember to apply the IRAC format when analyzing legal issues: identify the Issue, state the Rule, apply the rule to the facts (Application), and reach a Conclusion.