AJ 002 - Criminal Law Concepts
Information: Course OverviewRead material below prior to beginning the course.
This course is presented completely online. All written assignments, emails, quizzes, and tests are submitted electronically using Canvas tools. It is important, therefore, that you learn to use these tools quickly so you don't fall behind.
Now check out the Course Syllabus (left side of your screen) . Open the Syllabus and read it carefully. You will be quizzed on its content later.
Each time you log into class it will open to a Home page I have selected for that week. The module page is where you will find a new weekly assignments.
The Modules tool is where you will find assigned readings, writing assignments, quizzes, and discussion assignments. Modules are divided into weekly assignments and information.
Most quizzes and tests will be graded automatically. The exception is essay type responses. You will find your scores in the Grade Book Tool.
OK, enough for now. Spend a few minutes just looking around and getting familiar with the course tools. When you are done and want to get started, go to Modules and and begin work in Week 1.
Remember, don't get discouraged. Within a few weeks you will settle in and everything will fall into place. Glad to have you in class.
Lecture: Chapter 1 Key PointsThe chapter quiz will cover the following points.
CHAPTER 1 KEY POINTS
1. Five possible penalties for crime in California are: (a) death, (b) imprisonment, (c) fine, (d) removal from office, (e) disqualification to hold office.
2. Crime is a “public” wrong punishable by the state. Tort is a “private” or civil wrong punishable by awarding damages to the injured party.
3. Crimes mala in se are considered wrong by their very nature, e.g., murder. Crimes mala prohibita are wrong because of a statute against it, e.g., nude sun bathing in public.
4. Crimen falsi relates to crimes involving falsification such as perjury, forgery, etc.
5. Sources of our criminal law are: (a) English common law, (b) Federal and state Constitution, (c) Federal and state Legislature, and (d) appellate courts.
6. (a) Common law is based on folk law or custom and court decisions. (b) Common law was eventually written, codified, and adopted by legislatures as statutory law.
7. “Police power” of the state relates to its authority to regulate in the areas of health, safety, sanitation, traffic and general welfare.
8. Ex post facto, which means literally “after the fact,” is a constitutional concept which prohibits passing laws making an act a crime, or increasing penalties, etc., after the act has been committed.
9. Substantive law relates to the definition of crime and punishment. Adjective or procedural law refers to the rules for administering the substantive law.
10. Statute of limitation for (a) misdemeanors: one year after commission,; (b) burglary: three years after commission; (c) murder: no limitation.
11. The Attorney General represents government agencies (or individuals as their head). His opinions are quasi-judicial in nature, having less weight than a court decision. They are customarily followed in the absence of a court decision interpreting the law.
12. During the Westminster period (1285-1500), court procedures became more formal, custom became recognized as “law” and precedence became a factor in court decisions.
13. English common law concepts were adopted in America by early settlers who drew up agreements called “compacts,” in which they agreed to govern themselves by English common law.
14. The U.S. Congress and the state Legislature are the two most prolific sources of criminal law today. Appellate courts are third.
15. Venue has to do with the physical location where a case is to be filed or heard. Jurisdiction has to do with the court’s legal authority over the matter and the accused.
Scope and Source of
Chapter 1 Power Point Presentation
California Criminal Law Concepts
The basic purpose of criminal law is to
establish limits on certain human
behavior or activity considered harmful to
DEFINITION OF CRIME
Crime is social conduct considered harmful
to individuals and to our institutions and
therefore made punishable by law
ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF CRIMINAL
Early criminal law was based on custom
which was beneficial to the group
Even early cavemen developed basic rules to
Survival was based on following rules
Taboos taught to children = punishment (i.e.
As society developed, rules developed into
CODE OF HAMMURABI
First major code of written law
Developed almost 3,800 years ago
We can trace many of our legal concepts &
procedures back to this code, such as:
“Swearing in” of witnesses
Perjury as a crime
OTHER INFLUENCES AND
The Norman (French Period)
In 1066, William I of England conquered the British Isles at
the Battle of Hastings
English courts became more centralized (Royal Court)
The Westminster Period (1285-1500)
Custom leads to “stare decisis” or precedent
The Common Law
Law developed by judges through decisions of courts
rather than through legislative statutes
Unwritten law based on custom, gains strength over time
THE ADOPTION OF COMMON LAW IN
First settlers from England formed
agreements among themselves called
“compacts” which contained much of the
common law of England and was adopted for
Following the Declaration of Independence,
many states incorporated into written law
the basic principles of the old
CRIME IN CALIFORNIA
For an act or omission to constitute a crime in
California, it must :
Be in violation of a written statute
The statute must provide a penalty for its
United States and State Constitutions
Statutes (laws) passed by Congress, state
legislatures and local governments
Prevailing decisions (case law) of the
appellate courts in criminal cases
FEDERAL / STATE CONSTITUTIONS
U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the
land (Article VI)
We recognize both federal and state
constitutions as the “law of the land”
Define and limit the powers of the government
Provide for the establishment and maintenance
of our court system
BILL OF RIGHTS
Consists of 10 amendments to the United
Adopted in 1789, ratified in 1791
Greatest impact to criminal law:
Fourth Amendment (searches, seizures, warrants)
Fifth Amendment (self-incrimination)
Establishes the duties, powers, structure and
function of the government of the state of
The California Constitution is one of the longest in
Begins with a Declaration of Rights, similar to the
U.S. Constitution’s “Bill of Rights”:
Right against unreasonable search and seizure
(Article 1, Section 13)
Right against self-incrimination (Article 1, Section
PURPOSE AND NATURE OF CRIMINAL
The purpose of criminal law is to define socially
intolerable conduct and to hold conduct within
limits which are reasonably acceptable from the
social point of view.
241 Fed. Rptr. 2d 640
DEFINITION OF CRIME
CALIFORNIA / PC 15)
Committed or omitted
In violation of law commanding / forbidding it
When annexed upon conviction
Results in punishment of:
Death, imprisonment, fine, removal from office, or
disqualification from office
Pronounced: “star-ray dee-sigh-sis”
Adhering to precedent
the decision stand”
Principal that binds courts to stand by
prior decisions and to not disturb
settled points of law
This provides for consistency in law
CLASSIFICATION OF LAW
Law defining crimes; it is the activity that is
prohibited or required (theft, assault, etc.)
Laws that courts must enforce
Adjective (or Procedural) Law
Rules for administering the law
Example: Rules for police when submitting
evidence to a court
CRIMINAL LAW v. CIVIL LAW
An offense against society or the public
People v. Smith
(State represents the “people”)
Penalty can include death, prison, fine, etc.
Victim is the state (people) represented by the D.A.
Legal rules regarding contracts, agreements
Violations of civil law are called “torts”
Remedy is handled by fine (i.e., compensatory,
Victim is the injured party
degree of proof required, jury votes required for
verdict, rules of evidence, etc.
STATUTE OF LIMITATION
Places a limit on the amount of time which may
legally pass between the time the crime was
committed (or discovered) and prosecution is
Commencement of prosecution:
Grand Jury indictment, information filed, warrant issued
General felony rule
Usually three-years from commission of crime (PC 801)
General misdemeanor rule
Usually one-year from commission of crime (PC 802[b])
When there is NO statute of limitation
Usually offenses punishable by death or life in prison (PC 799)
Difference between “commission” and “discovery”
Certain crimes are commenced after discovery which could be
years later (See PC 803 et seq.)
A case citation published in the California
Appellate Reports would be written as:
, 44 Cal. App. 4
This refers to:
the People of California
v. an individual by the name of Weaver
found in the 44
of the California Appellate Reports,
fourth series, page 154
A case citation of the California Supreme Court
published in the California Reports (abbreviated “Cal.” or
simply the letter “C,” would be written as:
, 12 Cal. 4
This refers to: T
he People of California v. an individual by
the name of Lucas found in the 12
volume of the
California Reports, fourth series, page 415
When a case is “taken up on appeal”,
the appeal is usually heard first by the
Court of Appeal (six) (Los Angeles is in the 2
ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS
Attorney General is designated as chief law officer
of the state (California Constitution, Section 13)
Formal opinion is rendered when question
presented is of general statewide interest
Informal opinion is given on issues primarily of
Opinions do not have same authority as a judicial
Regarded as “quasi-judicial” in nature and entitled
to great respect
POLICE POWER OF THE STATE
“Police Power” is not stated in the U.S.
States’ rights are reserved in the Bill of Rights
under the Tenth Amendment
CA legislature has the right to prohibit and
punish any act
provided they do not violate
the restrictions of the Federal and State
interpret laws passed by
Under this power, the state can legislate in the
following five fields:
THE CONCEPT OF PREEMPTION
Preemption is controlled by Article XI,
Section 7, of the California Constitution
A municipality may not legislate in regard to
matters occupied by the state law if any one of the
The subject matter is one of state concern and the general law
occupies the entire field
The local legislation is in conflict with a state law
The subject matter is of such statewide concern
that it can no longer be deemed to be merely a
EX POST FACTO LAWS
ex post facto
law is one passed after the
commission of an act and which changes the
legal consequences of the act to the
Prohibited by U.S. Constitution, Article 1,
Sections 9 and 10
The California Constitution,
Article 1, Section 16
An ex post facto law is one which:
makes a crime more serious
inflicts a greater punishment
changes the rules of evidence
CRIMES vs. TORTS
A crime is an offense against the state (all the
people) and carries a punishment with it
A tort is a “private wrong,” such as failure to
comply with the terms of a legal contract,
slip and fall, etc. The civil action for a tort is
designed to obtain redress (payment or
reimbursement) to the injured party.
Intent is another distinction between a crime
and a tort
To render one criminally liable for an act, a
person must have a criminal intent as provided
by PC 20
In a civil action the plaintiff is the person who
brings the law suit
In a criminal case the district attorney (who
represents the people of CA) is the plaintiff
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Mala in Se
Crimes that are wrong or evil in themselves by their very
Wrong because the crime is prohibited by statute
Relates to that deemed “shamefully immoral” and suggests a
lack of honesty, modesty, integrity, and good morals
Any class of crime that involves falsification
Term is associated with an act of vileness or moral
depravity, such as sodomy, buggery, or bestiality
VENUE AND JURISDICTION
Venue has to do with the physical or
geographical location of the court in which
a case is to be filed or tried
Jurisdiction has to do with the court’s legal
authority over the defendant (jurisdiction of
the person) and the crime (jurisdiction of
the subject matter) s/he is accused of