The Golden Dolinko
Transcribed by §3, 4, Class of 2006
In the first class, we talked about killing out of “necessity.” Is it all right to kill one person if it will save the lives of three people? The judge in Regina v. Dudley and Stephens says that you can’t divorce law from morality. 3 theories of criminal punishment:
Actus Reus (culpable conduct)
Principle: criminal law depends on voluntary acts. There is a presupposition that people aren’t punished for involuntary acts. Definition:
--VOLUNTARY acts are movements of the physical body—cannot be punished for thoughts or intentions. This includes omissions, conscious movements, and habitual movements. --INVOLUNTARY acts are bodily movements not in control of the conscious mind. (narrow def.) As defined by the MPC: Reflex of convulsion
Movement during unconsciousness or sleep
Conduct during hypnosis
Other movement not an effort of person
Look at elements of a crime?
Martin v. State—the court found that defendant not guilty of public drunkenness because he did not voluntarily appear in public (police dragged him there). But is the court being sloppy? Looks at the statute prohibiting public drunkenness as a whole rather than at the component parts. If looked at the component parts, would find that Martin did not voluntarily appear in public, but once there, he did voluntarily act in a certain way. (The MPC looks at each elements—under Sec. 2.01, “liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act.)
So conduct necessarily implies a mental component to determine whether the conduct was voluntary. Was it conscious, was there choice, was person awake?
People v. Newton—guy was pulled over by police, shot in stomach. Claims he was unconscious when he shot a police officer. Prejudicial error that jury did not instruct on defense of unconsciousness? Yes—this is a complete defense to charge of criminal homicide. (Only needs to raise reasonable doubt that he was unconscious. Prosecution must prove the voluntary act was done. Here only need some evidence of unconsciousness to show that could have had a reasonable doubt and needed jury instruction.)
When found liable for unconscious actions:
1) There is no defense when the unconsciousness was from drinking too much alcohol. This is because the unconsciousness was self-induced.
2) People v. Decina:
Was driving a car and became unconscious due to an epileptic seizure. Killed someone and prosecuted for vehicular homicide. He knew that he could be rendered unconscious at any time and he drove the car anyway. A reasonable person wouldn’t have done this. (But couldn’t apply this reasoning to the Newton case because can’t trace causation back too far.)
So there is a difference between actions done mistakenly, accidentally, under duress, and those done because of unconsciousness, reflex, asleep. In the first category, talk about mitigating responsibility and in the second, no human action occurred at all.
Also in comparing Martin and Decina, consider the issue of “time-framing” in deciding when to consider a voluntary act.
Is there a legal duty of care:
No criminal liability for a moral obligation. Why? Practically it is hard to determine the mens rea. Morally, there should be a difference between those who voluntarily kill and those who omit to help. Also maybe less incentive to help if know will be responsible. Exceptions to the no-liability rule:
Statutory duty creates a duty to act. E.g. driver must stop car at scene of accident, parents must give food to their children. Status relationship. Common law duty to act in spousal relationship, parent/child Contractual obligations. When break an express or implied contract Omissions following an act. In some circumstances, even if no liability for the act. Creation of a risk. If negligently injure someone, cannot omit to help them. Or do a criminally...
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