Criminal Law

Case Rules

Bailey v. Commonwealth

Page 566, Paragraph 4

[O]ne who effects a criminal act through an innocent or unwitting agent is a principal in the first degree.

Boro v. Superior Court

Page 388

"[I]f deception causes a misunderstanding as to the fact itself (fraud in the factum) there is no legally-recognized consent because what happened is not that for which consent was given; whereas consent induced by fraud is as effective as any other consent, so far as direct and immediate legal consequences are concerned, if the deception relates not to the thing done but merely to some collateral matter (fraud in the inducement)."

Commonwealth v. Carroll

Page 248

"Whether the intention to kill and the killing, that is, the premeditation and the fatal act, were within a brief space of time or a long space of time is immaterial if the killing was in fact intentional, wilful, deliberate and premeditated."

Commonwealth v. Nee

Model Penal Code § 5.03(6)

It is an affirmative defense that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal purpose.

Commonwealth v. Pestinikas

Page 129–130
18 Pa.C.S. § 301
  1. General rule. — A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable.
  2. Omission as basis of liability. — Liability for the commission of an offense may not be based on an omission unaccompanied by action unless:
    1. the omission is expressly made sufficient by the law defining the offense; or
    2. a duty to perform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by law.

Girouard v. State

Words alone cannot be sufficient for provocation.

Goolsby v. State

Page 416

Garza . . . established a four-part test to determine whether movement of the victim constitutes asportation:

  1. the duration of the movement;
  2. whether the movement occurred during the commission of a separate offense;
  3. whether such movement was an inherent part of that separate offense; and
  4. whether the movement itself presented a significant danger to the victim independent of the danger posed by the separate offense.


These are merely factors. Not all four factors must be met to establish asportation.

Owens v. State

Page 8, Top

"[A] conviction upon circumstantial evidence alone is not to be sustained unless the circumstances are inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence."

Oxendine v. State

Page 214

"Contribution [or aggravation] without acceleration is insufficient to establish causation."

Penley v. Commonwealth

Costs must be excluded form the value of services provided.

People v. Breton

Solicitation does not require actual agreement.

People v. Dlugash

Page 472, Paragraph 3

[I]f a person engages in conduct which would otherwise constitute an attempt to commit a crime, "it is no defense to a prosecution for such attempt that the crime charged to have been attempted was, under the attendant circumstances, factually or legally impossible of commission, if such crime could have been committed had the attendant circumstances been as such person believed them to be."

People v. Gentry

Page 457

[A] finding of specific intent to kill is a necessary element of the crime of attempt murder.

People v. Howard

  • Page 317

    "A homicide that is a direct causal result of the commission of a felony inherently dangerous to human life constitutes at least second degree murder."

  • Page 317

    "In determining whether a felony is inherently dangerous [under the second degree felony-murder rule], the court looks to the elements of the felony in the abstract, 'not the "particular" facts of the case,' i.e., not to the defendant's specific conduct."

People v. Jennings

Page 218, Paragraph 4

"'"When the conduct of two or more persons contributes concurrently as the proximate cause of the death, the conduct of each is a proximate cause of the death if that conduct was also a substantial factor contributing to the result. A cause is concurrent if it was operative at the time of the death and acted with another cause to produce the death."'"

People v. Knoller

Page 290, Paragraph 2

[Malice] is implied, when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart."


  • Page 290, Paragraph 3
    People v. Thomas

    ". . . [M]alice is implied when “the defendant for a base, antisocial motive and with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.”

  • Page 290, Paragraph 3
    People v. Philips

    Malice is implied when the killing is proximately caused by "'an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life, which act was deliberately performed by a person who knows that his conduct endangers the life of another and who acts with conscious disregard for life.'"

People v. Kolzow

Page 283, Bottom
720 ILCS 5/4-6

"A person is reckless or acts recklessly, when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow, . . . and such disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation."

People v. Navarro

If one has a good faith belief that he has the right to take something, he must be acquitted of theft even if such a belief is objectively unreasonable.

People v. Newton

Intoxication is not a defense to a criminal charge but may be offered to negate an element of the crime.

People v. Rizzo

An act must come very near the accomplishment of the crime to constitute a criminal attempt.

People v. Sarun Chun

Page 313

When the underlying felony is assaultive in nature, . . . the felony merges with the homicide and cannot be the basis of a felony-murder instruction.

People v. Superior Court (Decker)

An attempt requires a specific intent to commit the crime and a direct but ineffectual act done toward its commission.

People v. Traughber

  • Page 342

    "Ordinary negligence is defined as want of reasonable care; that is, failing to do what an ordinarily sensible person would have done under the conditions and circumstances then existing. . . ."

  • In emergency situations, one is not held accountable for his judgment unless he is the one that created the emergency.

Rosemond v. United States

Page 548

[A] person who actively participates in a criminal scheme knowing its extent and character intends that scheme’s commission.

Ross v. Mississippi

Page 480, Bottom

[A]bandonment occurs where, through the verbal urging of the victim, but with no physical resistance or external intervention, the perpetrator changes his mind.

Rusk v. State (1)

Page 371

"Force is an essential element of the crime and to justify a conviction, the evidence must warrant a conclusion either that the victim resisted and her resistance was overcome by force or that she was prevented from resisting by threats to her safety."

Standefer v. United States

Yes, one be convicted as an accomplice of one who was acquitted.

Staples v. United States

Generally, crimes require a mens rea to be present. Strict liability offenses are disfavored and require an indication of congressional intent to establish them as such.

State v. Birthmark

Page 410

[T]he standard for determining whether there has been an offense is whether a reasonable person under similar circumstances as the victim would have a reasonable apprehension of bodily injury. "The standard is objective, asking whether a reasonable person under similar circumstances would have reasonably apprehended bodily injury." The only mental state required to convict is that the defendant have a "conscious object to engage in [the] conduct" or that he be "aware of his . . . conduct"

State v. Boodoosingh

Page 411

([T]o prove attempt, Commonwealth must prove that defendant either committed the last act necessary to complete the crime, such as where a combatant swings and misses, or committed overt acts that brought him very near in time and ability to commission of the completed crime).

State v. Carswell

  • Page 429

    "A bare removal from the place in which he found the goods, though the thief does not quite make off with them, is a sufficient asportation, or carrying away."

  • Page 429, Bottom

    This Court has defined "taking" in this context as the "severance of the goods from the possession of the owner." Thus, the accused must not only move the goods, but he must also have them in his possession, or under his control, even if only for an instant.

State v. Castagna

Page 263

Passion/provocation manslaughter has four specific elements:

  1. reasonable and adequate provocation;
  2. insufficient cooling-off time;
  3. actual passion caused by the provocation; and
  4. no actual cooling off.

State v. Davis

Page 135, Bottom
State v. Fortner
  1. "Merely witnessing a crime, without intervention, does not make a person a party to its commission unless his interference was a duty, and his noninterference was one of the conditions of the commission of the crime; or unless his noninterference was designed by him and operated as an encouragement to or protection of the perpetrator."
  2. "Proof that the defendant was present at the time and place the crime was committed is a factor to be considered by the jury in determining guilt, along with other circumstances, such as the defendant's association with or relation to the perpetrator and his conduct before and after the commission of the crime."
  3. "Under the concerted action principle, a defendant who is present at the scene of a crime and, by acting with another, contributes to the criminal act, is criminally liable for such offense as if he were the sole perpetrator."

State v. Guthrie

Page 243

Deliberation and premeditation mean to reflect upon the intent to kill and make a deliberate choice to carry it out. Although no particular amount of time is required, there must be at least a sufficient period to permit the accused to actually consider in his or her mind the plan to kill.

State v. Hirschfelder

Statutory rape can apply when the victim is over the age of 18.

State v. Olsen

Recklessness is a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of a substantial risk one is actually aware of.

State v. Pacheco

  • Page 491, Bottom
    Rev. Code Wash. § 9A.28.040

    A person is guilty of criminal conspiracy when, with intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed, he agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct, and any one of them takes a substantial step in pursuance of such agreement.

  • Page 492, Top

    Black's Law Dictionary defines agreement as "[a] meeting of two or more minds; a coming together in opinion or determination; the coming together in accord of two minds on a given proposition".

State v. Ragland

Jury nullification is not one of the precious attributes of the right to trial by jury. It is nothing more than a power whose exercise is unavoidable yet undesirable.

State v. Reeves

  • Page 467
    Tenn. Code Ann. § 39–12–101

    A person commits criminal attempt who, acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the offense:

    . . .

    1. Acts with intent to complete a course of action or cause a result that would constitute the offense, under the circumstances surrounding the conduct as the person believe them to be, and the conduct constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of the offense.
  • Page 468
    Model Penal Code § 5.01(2)

    (2) Conduct which may be held substantial step . . . . [T]he following . . . shall not be held insufficient as a matter of law:

    . . .

    1. possession of materials to be employed in the commission of the crime, which are specially designed for such unlawful use or which can serve no lawful purpose of the actor under the circumstances;
    2. possession, collection or fabrication of materials to be employed in the commission of the crime, at or near the place contemplated for its commission, where such possession, collection or fabrication serves no lawful purpose of the actor under the circumstances;

State v. Sexton

While mistake of fact is not really a defense, it does relate to whether an essential element of the charged offense is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

State v. Small

Page 348

[N]egligent homicide does not require a "direct act" of killing by the defendant. Negligent homicide is "the killing of a human being by criminal negligence." "Criminal negligence exists when although neither specific nor general criminal intent is present, there is such disregard of the interest of others that the offender's conduct amounts to a gross deviation below the standard of care expected to be maintained by a reasonably careful man under like circumstances." Ordinary negligence does not equate to criminal negligence

State v. Smith

State v. Smith

  • Page 225

    When dealing with claims of intervening causation, the proper analysis starts with a determination of whether the intervening act was a mere coincidence or alternatively, a response to the accused's prior conduct. An intervening cause is a coincidence when the defendant's act merely places the victim at a certain place at a certain time, thus subjecting the victim to the vagaries of the intervening cause. . . . An intervening act is a response to the prior acts of the defendant where it involves reaction to the condition created by the defendant.

  • The accused takes the victim as he find him.

State v. Sophophone

Page 329

"Murder in the first degree is the killing of a human being committed:

. . . .

  1. in the commission of, attempt to commit, or flight from an inherently dangerous felony . . . ."

State v. Utter

In addition to having mens rea, crimes also require the actus reus to be voluntary—a willed movement.

State v. V.T.

Page 540
Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-202

Every person, acting with the mental state required for the commission of an offense who directly commits the offense, who solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable as a party for such conduct.

State v. White

Page 271

[A] person acts under the influence of extreme emotional distress when "he is exposed to extremely unusual and overwhelming stress" that would cause the average reasonable person under the same circumstances to "experience a loss of self-control," and "be overborne by intense feelings, such as passion, anger, distress, grief, excessive agitation, or other similar emotions."

Taylor v. State

Either express or implied intent is sufficient for malice murder. If the defendant knew that his conduct was substantially certain to cause the result, he intentionally caused the result whether or not he desired it to occur.

United States v. Bailey

Page 152

[A] person who causes a particular result is said to act purposefully if "'he consciously desires that result, whatever the likelihood of that result happening from his conduct,'" while he is said to act knowingly if he is aware "'that that result is practically certain to follow from his conduct, whatever his desire may be as to that result.'"

Page 153

"[C]lear analysis requires that the question of the kind of culpability required to establish the commission of an offense be faced separately with respect to each material element of the crime."

United States v. Brewer

Page 28

18 U.S.C. § 3553 provides in part that punishment should be decided taking into account:

  1. the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant;
  2. the need for the sentence imposed—
    1. to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense;
    2. to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;
    3. to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and
    4. to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner ...

Section 3553(a)(2) calls upon the Court to consider the goals of sentencing. "[R]etribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation—are the four purposes of sentencing generally, and a court must fashion a sentence `to achieve the[se] purposes ... to the extent that they are applicable' in a given case."

United States v. Jewell

Positive knowledge is not required to act knowingly, only an awareness of the high probability of the fact in question.

United States v. Shabani

No, an overt act is not required to be convicted of a narcotics conspiracy.

United States v. Villalobos

Page 433

Extortion is defined in the Hobbs Act as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right."

Waddington v. Sarausad

To be an accomplice in Washington, one must have knowledge of the specific crime that occurs.


This is a rejection of the natural and probable consequences doctrine.

Young v. State

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoPage 149
State v. Gaylord

"Malice means ill will, hatred, spite, an evil intent."