Criminal Law Coursework

1. Discuss, Define, Compare, and Contrast Sabotage and Espionage.

Both sabotage and espionage are crimes against the state. Sabotage refers to the damage or destruction of defense property and materials, harbors, transportation materials, utilities and buildings in order to hinder the nation’s preparation of war or national defense in times of national catastrophes and emergencies (Samaha, 2011). The mens rea of sabotage is engaging in the acts knowingly, purposely and negligently while the actus reus is the actual destruction, obstruction, contamination or damage of property belonging to the national defense. Sabotage can only take place when the United States is at war or during times of emergency.

Espionage refers to the act of spying. It is prohibited by section 794, chapter 37 of the United States Code of 2006. Espionage is categorized into two categories: espionage during war and espionage during peace. Espionage during peace constitutes of turning or attempting to turn over national defense information to a foreign country with intent or with reason to believe that the information is to be used to help the foreign country or harm the United States(Samaha, 2011).The penalty for committing espionage during peace is imprisonment up to a life sentence or death if any person dies as a result of the espionage. Espionage during a war, on the other hand, involves attempting to or actually communicating, publishing, recording or collecting any information about the movement of troops, war materials, ships or aircraft or any material that may assist the enemy during war. The penalty is imprisonment for life or death.

2. The Two Rationales for the Crime of Attempt

The “crime of attempt” falls into a category of crimes known as inchoate offenses. The crime of attempt involves the mens rea of having a specific intent and the actus reus of doing something towards accomplishing the intent, but not enough to complete the intended crime. The Model Penal Code refers to crimes of attempt as offences of general application. Crimes of attempt create a dilemma of whether offenders should be accorded similar treatment with those who actually commit the crime. The law resolves the dilemma by requiring a specific intent or purpose to commit the crime; requiring the offender to take some steps towards fulfilling the intent; and punishing crimes of attempt less severely than completed crimes (Brenner, 2011).

There are two rationales for attempt law: one focuses on dangerous persons (mens rea) while the other one focuses on dangerous acts (actus reus). The dangerous person rationale evaluates the extent to which the defendants have developed their criminal purpose. The dangerous acts rationale focuses on how close the defendants came to the actual completion of the crime. Both rationales measure danger on basis of actions but they do so for different reasons. The dangerous act rationale prevents harm that can arise from dangerous conduct while the dangerous person rationale prevents dangerous people from committing a crime by neutralizing their intent.

The dangerous act rationale was applied in People v. Rizzo (1977) whereby the defendants had agreed and planned to commit a crime. They were walking around the city looking for an opportunity to commit the crime, but it never came. The court found that they were not guilty of an attempt to commit a robbery. The dangerous act rationale was applied in State v. Stewart (1988). In the case, Stewart was in a bus when the defendant demanded money from him. When Stewart refused to hand over the money, the defendant reached into his pocket for a gun. The defendant was  told  to put the gun away by his friend. The court ruled that it was clear that the defendant intended to rob Stewart and the defendant was found guilty of attempted robbery.

3. The Meaning of "Person" in Homicide Law and the Problems it Causes.

The modern penal code divides homicide into two categories: murder and manslaughter (Samaha, 2011). Murder is the unlawful act of killing a person with malice aforethought while manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person without malice aforethought. Malice aforethought means that the victim is killed intentionally without any excuse, legal reason or justification whatsoever. The unlawful killing of a person constitutes the actus reus of murder while the intention to kill a person or cause grievous bodily harm to them constitutes the mens rea.

For intent to be established, the act must have been committed knowingly, negligently, purposely and recklessly. The unlawful act of killing can be committed through an act or an omission. For a crime to be classified as murder, the victim must be a human being. This requirement poses the challenges of the point at which one becomes a human being and the point at which one ceases to be a human being. Common law provided that a fetus was not a human being and therefore, killing a fetus did  not amount to murder.

Section 210 of the Modern Penal Code, which was drafted in 1962, defines a human being as a person who has been born alive in alignment with the common law “born alive” rule. To be considered to have been born alive, a fetus must have an existence that is independent from that of its mother. In Keeler v. Superior Court (1970), The California Court of Appeal ruled that in California, a fetus, which has passed the stage of viability, is a human being. The California Supreme Court declined to expand the definition of a person to include unborn fetuses. Keeler was convicted of manslaughter instead of homicide since he had caused the death of his wife’s unborn child by kicking her in the stomach (Samaha, 2011).

Deaths caused by prenatal injuries are prosecuted as homicides by states, which follow the “born alive” rule. In State v. Cotton (2000), Cotton had accidentally shot his girlfriend when she was eight and a half months pregnant. She died at the hospital, but her baby was delivered alive. The infant died the next day due to decreased blood supply resulting from the gunshot. Cotton was convicted on two counts of reckless homicide and the Arizona Supreme Court rejected his argument that the shooting had occurred before the fetus was born (Samaha, 2011).

The modern penal code stipulates that a person is considered dead when the brain stem cell ceases to function. The exact point at which life ends has created controversy in modern medicine, particularly, in relation to euthanasia/doctor-assisted suicide, life support machines and organ transplants. Supporters of euthanasia argue that euthanasia is a constitutional right protected by the fifth and the fifteenth amendment of the constitution. In Washington V. Glucksberg(1997), it was held that the state has the right to decriminalize doctor assisted suicide so that it is not considered as homicide.

4. Discuss, Compare, and Contrast Kidnapping and False Imprisonment

Kidnapping refers to a crime, which is committed when a person moves another person from one physical location to another without consent of the person, and without legal authority. The intent of the kidnapper is to use the abduction of the victim in order to achieve another unlawful objective such as demand for ransom or political motivation. Kidnapping is punishable under penal law(Wallace and Roberson, 2012).

False imprisonment is not a criminal offense. It is a civil claim, which entitles the victim to sue for damages. It involves illegal confinement of an individual without his consent by another individual in such a way that the imprisonment amounts to violation of the constitutional rights of the confined individual. False imprisonment can however be criminal in nature attracting imprisonment of less than one year since it is classified as a misdemeanor(Samaha, 2011). The court can award punitive or nominal damages to the victim.

Both kidnapping and false imprisonment are offenses against the freedom of a person. Proof of false imprisonment only requires confining the person without their consent while kidnapping must involve seizing a person and moving them to another location through the use of force, deception, fraud or threat of fraud. The major difference between the crimes is that in kidnapping there must be physical movement of the person from one location to another. Kidnapping is now considered as a felony and is regulated by the Federal Kidnapping Act(Samaha, 2011). If the victim is not found within 24 hours, it is presumed that the kidnapper has crossed into another state justifying entry of the FBI into the investigation.

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