Washington Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Title: Washington Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

I. Introduction to Criminal Law
Understanding the essential elements and purpose of criminal law is foundational in this course. This includes differentiating between civil and criminal law, recognizing the role of the Constitution and understanding the principles of both actus reus (the physical act) and mens rea (the mental state).

II. Hierarchy of Law
In the US, the hierarchy of law is as follows: US Constitution, Federal statutes and treaties, Federal common law and administrative regulations, State constitution, State statutes, State common law and administrative regulations, Municipal ordinances.

III. Washington State Specifics
In Washington, the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is the compilation of all permanent laws now in force. It is a collection of Session Laws (enacted by the legislature, and signed by the governor, or enacted via the initiative process).

Key cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Smith: Washington Supreme Court case where it was held that evidence of a victim’s previous sexual behavior is irrelevant and inadmissible in a rape case unless it meets certain exceptions. The court applied RCW 9A.44.020.

IV. Model Penal Code (MPC) & Common Law
The Model Penal Code has influenced the criminal law of many states, including Washington. However, common law principles remain relevant in interpreting criminal statutes and understanding how courts apply these laws.

V. Mens Rea
Mens rea, or the mental element, is an essential component of criminal liability. It can range from negligence to intent. The Model Penal Code outlines four categories of mens rea: purpose, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Salinas: This case interpreted the mens rea requirements under RCW 9A.32.030(1)(a), Washington’s first-degree murder statute. The court held that premeditation must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in these cases.

VI. Actus Reus
Actus reus involves the physical act of the crime. It also encompasses omissions when there is a legal duty to act.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Williams: In this case, the court interpreted the actus reus requirements under RCW 9A.32.030(1)(a), finding that a physical action is necessary for a guilty verdict.

VII. Defenses
Various defenses can negate criminal liability, including self-defense, duress, and insanity.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Janes: In this case, the court recognized the battered woman syndrome as a form of self-defense under RCW 9A.16.020.

VIII. Homicide
Homicide law in Washington includes murder and manslaughter, divided into degrees.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Odom: This case clarified the difference between first and second-degree murder.

IX. Sex Crimes
Sex crimes in Washington include various degrees of rape and sexual misconduct.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Blake: This case set a precedent regarding the constitutionality of Washington’s drug possession laws.

X. Property Crimes
Property crimes involve theft, robbery, burglary, and trespassing.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Dent: The court interpreted Washington’s theft statute, RCW 9A.56.020.

XI. Inchoate Crimes
Inchoate crimes involve attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Foster: This case interpreted Washington’s solicitation statute, RCW 9A.28.020.

XII. Principles of Causation
Causation involves determining the link between a defendant’s actions and the result of those actions.

Cases and Statutes:
1. State v. Rivas: The court interpreted the causation requirement under Washington’s assault statute, RCW 9A.36.011.

Remember, the purpose of a study guide is to aid in understanding and applying the law rather than providing in-depth legal advice. Always refer to the relevant statutes and cases when preparing for examinations.

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