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Criminal Law - Defenses


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US v. Peterson
D shot windshild wiper thief. If you create the risk of loss of life you cannot use self-defense.
Castle Doctrine:
if one through no fault of his own is attacked, he doesn’t have to retreat
Self- Defense
A non-aggressor may use force against another if she/he:
⬢Reasonably believes that such force is
⬢Necessary to prevent
⬢Unlawful use of force by another
Deadly aggressor can only retain right of self-defense by:
...withdrawing from conflict and clearly communicating withdrawal to victim.
To be necessary, the force must be:
⬢In response to an imminent threat; and
⬢Proportional to the threat.
People v. Goetz
Goetz fired at subway kids. Subjective reasonable person v. objective reasonable person: Court of Appeals said should be an objective standard because everyone who shot of perceived threat to themselves could argue that the other party was going to kill them.
State v. Wanrow
Reasonable Woman w/ broken leg. Guy molested girl and tried to molest boy. Sex discrimination – a woman is weaker than a guy and it is more reasonable for her to use deadly force. Should a woman have to take a beating instead of shooting him with a gun (the only means of force available to her).
State v. Norman
Norman was abusive alcoholic who abused his wife over a long period. Doctrine considering reasonable person – she is perceiving things from the perspective of a battered woman.
From what perspective is this to be judged? Reasonable man Requirements:
-Clear and imminent danger
-Reasonable expectation that action will allow one to avoid or eliminate danger
-No effective legal way to avert the harm
-Harm caused must be less serious than reasonably foreseeable harm avoided
-Lawmakers must not have anticipated this situation and chosen different “balance of harms” (medical marijuana)
-Defendant should have clean hands – if you have caused the harm – imagine that Nelson was drunk and had one-person accident – he caused the accident and this would negate necessity defense.
Self Defense Three essential elements
1. The act charged must have been done to prevent a significant evil
2. There must have been no adequate alternative
3. The harm caused must not have been disproportionate to the harm avoided
Necessity defense and homicide-
Common law:
No necessity defense to homicide
It is always wrong to take a human life!
Necessity Defense and homicide-
Natural law (catholic approach):
Principle of double effect. One is permitted to take action necessary to save a life, even though no one knows that this action will result in death, where (1) death is not the intended effect and (2) death is not the very means by which life is saved.
Necessity Defense and Homicide-
MPC (utilitarian approach):
necessity defense is available for homicide
Nelson v. State
Truck gets stuck and uses front-loader and it gets stuck!
Have to be avoiding a greater harm and choosing a lesser harm
Three essential elements
1. Act charged must have been done to prevent a significant evil
2. There must have been no adequate alternative
3. Harm caused must not be disproportionate to harm avoided.
Reasonable man Standard
US v. Contento-Pachon
Columbian forced to be a cocaine courier. Threat was immediate because it was continual. Defendant is committing a lesser harm to avoid a greater harm
People v. Anderson
D kidnapped and killed V because Kiern threatened to "beat the shit out of him". Problem with duress defense for first degree murder charge? Don’t want to accept duress threat for murder
a legal concept; excused from their criminal action; not excused from whatever they did
Mental illness
a medical concept
M’Naughten Test:
Legally insane if laboring under such defect of reason, arising
Irresistible impulse Test:
Some jurisdictions use as a supplement to M’Naughten test.
One is legally insane if one “acted from an irresistible and uncontrollable impulse”.
Meant to excuse people suffering from mental illness that affects volitional capacity.
Durham test
Historically important, not used anymore, conduct is product of mental illness.
Too all encompassing.
Defendant is excused if conduct was product of mental disease or defect.
Criticized for giving experts too much power. Acquits some blameworthy people.
Federal test – 18 U.S.C. §17
Affirmative defense:
It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under any federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense
State v. Wilson
Dirk’s mind control! Under MPC, if he doesn’t appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct, he should be able to raise insanity defense. The mere fact that I have a delusion – we have to think if the delusion is true and we still would condemn them, we would not excuse them on grounds of insanity. If we would not condemn them, we would excuse them on grounds of insanity.
State v. Green
Green had a long history of mental problems. Paranoia schizophrenia. In this case, although the acts of the defendant at or near the time of the killing were arguably “consistent with sanity,” quite obviously they were not also “inconsistent with insanity.” Court has no choice but to set aside Green’s conviction.

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