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II. Actus Reus a voluntary act, omissions do not usually count. A. Voluntary Act

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I.Basic Definition - Act + Mental State + Result = Crime – Defenses

II.Actus Reus - a voluntary act, omissions do not usually count.

A.Voluntary Act

Common Law



Requires a voluntary and a social harm An act is voluntary if  willed the action or if she was sufficiently free that she could be blamed for her conduct. The social harm is the wrong caused by 's voluntary act.

No person may be convicted of a crime in the absence of conduct that includes of which he is physically capable.



Common Law



No crime unless there is a legal duty to act




Special Relationship

Assumption of Care

Peril wrongfully created for another

Same as CL criminal liability imposed for the omission of an act which  is physically capable.



Not obtaining reasonably available help can make  liable, no matter what ’s physical capabilities.

2.Involuntary AcT

Common Law



Can negate the action or serve as an affirmative defense. Done in a state of unconsciousness

Involuntary acts: reflex, convulsion, movements during sleep, movements under or the result of hypnosis, and unconscious movements.

MPC extends CL such that acts done under hypnosis and in states of unconsciousness are "no action."

III.Mens Rea - A mental state is required for most crimes. Strict liability and public welfare offences are the exception. To prove an offense, the prosecution must prove mens rea as to every element of the offense


Common Law



Intentionally (willfully) – to consciously cause the result or when one is virtually certain that the object will occur as a result of 's conduct.

Recklessness – A heightened criminal negligence or conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.

Negligence – Objective fault  should have been aware that his conduct created a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the social harm would result.

Maliciously - when one intentionally or grossly reckless causes the social harm prohibited by the statute.

Purpose - conscious object with conduct & results. Must be aware of the existence or believe or hope that such circumstances do exist

Knowledge – Conscience awareness that results are practically certain to occur

Recklessness - Conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.

Negligence – Should have been aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.
Rule of thumb

Purpose = desire for a certain outcome

Knowledge = indifference to a certain outcome

MPC splits intentionally into purpose and knowledge

MPC clear distinction between negligence and recklessness - not on the degree of risk involved but on D's knowledge of the risk.

MPC provides that when it is not clear which element a mens rea applies to, apply it to all elements of the offense

Where the statute is silent on Mens Rea, recklessness is required.

Willful Blindness

MPC - if one deliberately avoids knowledge because of the belief that knowing would be bad, then  satisfies mens rea of knowledge. Requires high probability

CL - Only have to be aware of probable existence of element

B.attendant circumstances

Common Law




For a crime requiring a mens rea of:

Purpose -  must be aware of the existence of such circumstances (attendant), or believes or is aware they exist

Knowledge - Aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist: only requires high probability of existence.
Reckless: Conscience disregard of substantial and unjustified risk
Negligence - Should be aware of substantial or unjustified risk

C.Specific Intent/General Intent

Common Law



Applies to mens rea. Defined by the crime
General Intent – volitional doing of a prohibited act. Only require intent to commit the act constituting the crime. Can infer all mens rea from observing the conduct.
Specific Intent – intent to do some further act or cause some additional consequence beyond that which must have been committed or cause in order to complete the crime. Acts in addition to general intent. Proof of specific intent is required , but it may be circumstantial.
To negate specific intent, a mistake must be honest.

To negate a general intent, the mistake must be honest and reasonable.

MPC does not distinguish between general and specific intent.

This is exclusively a CL issue.
General intent –  desired to commit an actus reus;

Special intent –  desired to bring about something further

An alternative definition

Specific - intent to do conduct and a further intent.

General - intent to do the conduct.

D.Strict Liability - Where there is no mental state required for an offense

Common Law



Public welfare and traditional crimes. Created by statute

Under MPC, SL crimes are generally restricted to violations and are punishable by fines, not incarceration - public welfare crimes;

MPC is generally the same as CL.


A.Cause in fact - Causation is only required for result crimes.

Common Law



Conduct satisfies the but-for test. Actual cause exists when the result that constitutes the criminal offense would not have occurred when it did but for 's voluntary act (or omission)

MPC only requires actual causation and uses the same but-for test as CL.

Cause in fact

MPC only requires actual causation.

B.Proximate Cause

Common Law



Forseeability Test

To determine proximate cause, one must determine whether the actor was the direct cause and whether there were any intervening actors or intervening causes (coincidences) that severer the causal chain back to 

No intervening causes unless the cause is foreseeable or de minimus.
Intervening Acts - Intervening acts can sufficiently break the chain of causation;

Dependent intervening acts: occur where the intervening actor acts because of a condition brought upon by the D’s prior conduct. However, if the dependant intervening actor was grossly negligent, this is sufficient to break the chain of causation.

Voluntary Intervening Act: occur where the intervening actor acts voluntarily. Intentional acts always break the chain of causation; reckless acts are sometimes sufficient (depending on court).

MPC handles proximate causation within the mens rea as to results. Whether the result was too distant or accidental in occurrence to have a just bearing on 's liability or on the gravity of the offense.
If the result deviates too far from what is foreseeable, then one will be exculpated for purpose and knowledge crimes. If not, then  will be convicted even if there is an intervening actor.
For risky crimes, the result must have been foreseeable in order to convict

For MPC, proximate causation is handled within mens rea.
Purp/Know: Causation not established if result was not what was intended, unless:

1.  just a different person (Transferred Intent)

2. Injury less than intended
Reck/Neg: Causation not established if result not within risk the actor was or should have been aware of, unless:

1.  just a different person (Transferred Intent)

2. Injury less than risked
Exceptions to forseeability:
Take the Victim as you find him - Condition unforeseeable, but  still liable

Transferred intent - Result unforeseeable but  still liable

Voluntary intervening act - Result foreseeable but  not held liable.


1.Accomplice - An accomplice is one who intentionally assists another person to engage in conduct that constitutes the offense

Common Law




Principal in the 1st degree – Actually engage in the act or omission that constitutes the criminal offence

Principal in the 2nd degree – incites or abets and is present, either actively or constructively at the time of the crime

Accessory before the fact – incites or abets but is not present at the time of the crime.

Accessory after the fact - intentionally assists the principal after the crime.
Actus reus, mens rea and principal’s completion of the offense
Actus reus

Abetting or inciting - The  must have directly of indirectly encouraged of facilitated the commission of the offence.

Abetting -is any significant assistance in the commission of an offense

The aid must impact upon the actual perpetrator

aid does not have to be necessary for the successful commission of the offense.

perpetrator doesn’t’ have to be aware of the of the accessory’s assistance.

Inciting – encouragement even if not accompanied by physical aid.

Perpatrator must be aware of encouragement

Being present at crime with prior agreement to aid is sufficient encouragement
Mens rea
Mental state required for commission of the target offense
Intend for action to assist or encourage in the successful completion of the crime
Generally, this second element can be inferred from the first.

Accomplice is liable for all crimes that are a reasonably foreseeable result of the contemplated crime. Some jurisdictions allow 's to be accomplices to reckless or negligent crimes.


Principal – Acting with the requisite mens rea, actually engages in the act or omission that causes the crime, or acts through an irresponsible or innocent agent (Innocent Instrumentality) to commit the offence

Accomplice – incites or abets with requisite intent before or during the commission of the offense. Includes solicitation and omission when a duty is present.
mens rea

Purposefully promotes or facilitates in the commission of a crime.

Must act with culpability sufficient for the commission of the offense
Note that this is especially significant in jurisdictions with felony murder because it makes an accomplice in the conduct (underlying felony) strictly liable for the resulting death because he had the requisite mens rea as to the result. This is how MPC deals with accomplice liability in reckless or negligent contexts.

MPC - no actual assistance for accomplice liability is necessary. Agreement to aid is enough.

MPC - accomplice can be convicted even if the perpetrator has not yet been prosecuted, has been convicted of a lesser crime, has been acquitted, or is feigning.

MPC - does not recognize the natural and probable consequences rule for homicide found in CL. MPC - one who is legally incapable of committing an offense may be accountable for the crime if another person for whom he is legally accountable commits it.

MPC - knowing facilitation is not enough to establish liability. A victim cannot be an accomplice.

MPC includes the crime of attempt to aid and abet.

CL - If the perpetrator is justified, then there is no accomplice liability because there is no crime.

CL- excuses do not transfer from perpetrator to accomplice

A victim accomplice (underage girl in statutory rape) cannot be an accomplice unless there is a legislative exception.

Knowing or reckless facilitation is sufficient to establish complicity in some courts
Substantiality of aid can also create complicity. Complicity may also be established if there is sufficiently substantial benefit to the knowing facilitator.


Common Law




Must take place before the events are unstoppable

Inciter – communicate an renunciation of the crime to the perpetrator

Abettor – Must render the assistance  gave ineffective


Wholly depriving his prior assistance of effectiveness,

Provide a timely warning of the plan to law enforcement

Make an effort to prevent the commission of the offence



1.Attempt - an act done with the intention of committing a crime, that falls short of completing a crime

Common Law



Mens Rea -

For the Attempt - Specific intent to commit the acts or cause the resulting target crime.

For the Target crime - Intent necessary for the target crime (specific or general depending of the offence) For strict liability must only show intent to attempt, no target crime mens rea
Reckless crimes – Courts generally do not try for attempts of reckless crimes.
Negligent crimes - Attempt to commit is logically impossible
Actus Reus


Proximity test – conduct must be physically proximate to the intended crime. Focuses on what remains to be done.
Indispensable Elements – Control over all factors in the commission of the crime. Nothing must be left undone
Probable desistance - Likelihood that  would cease efforts to commit the crime given the conduct  has already committed.
Unequivocal (res ipsa loquitur) – An act amounts to attempt only if it firmly shows the ’s intent to commit the crime. The act “speaks for itself”
Last Proximate Act - test has been universally rejected, is traditional common law
Attempt is a misdemeanor.

Mens Rea -

For the attempt – Purposely or knowingly engages in conduct which would constitute the crime if the attendant circumstances were as  believes them to be.

For the Target crime –  acts with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the commission of the offense.
However, here too, the mens rea for attempt is often higher than the one required for the target offense. Generally, the required mens rea is purpose.
Actus Reus

 must perform a substantial step toward committing the crime.

’s conduct must be corroborative of 's purpose.
.Attempt is a felony.

Under MPC,  may still be held for the attempt even if the target offense is neither committed nor attempted by  or anyone else.
CL - no definitive Actus Reus test

MPC - does not use general vs. specific intent language.

Most states no attempt for Felony Murder


Common Law



mistake of fact

no mistake of law

legal impossibility

no factual impossibility


Traditionally never a se. Abandonment is a se when it is complete and voluntary. Once 's actions have passed the point of being an attempt is not generally a se.

No mistake of fact

No mistake of law

Legal impossibility.

No factual impossibility

No hybrid impossibility

Is a se only if:

It is fully voluntary and not made because of the difficulty of completing the crime or because of an increased risk of apprehension

It is a complete abandonment of the plan made under circumstances manifesting a renunciation of criminal purpose, not just a postponement

MPC – Only “true” legal impossibility is a defense
’s conduct is an attempt if it was only prevented by 's mistake of fact.


Common Law



Actus Reus
agreement to commit a criminal act or series of acts, or to accomplish a legal act by unlawful means.

Object of Agreement - need only be unlawful / wrongful.

Nature of the Agreement - need not be written or even express. Can be implied from the action of the actors

Act Doctrine - no further act is necessary in most jurisdictions.

Merger - does not merge into an attempt or the completed offense.

Mens Rea

Specific intent crime with 2 parts:

intent to agree

intent to carry out the object crime.
Some courts allow conviction if the second mens rea (as to object crime) is merely knowledge.
Attendant Circumstances - court has held that mens rea here is the same as for the substantive crime, even if it is strict liability.
Number of Parties Needed - two or more with the requisite mens rea (multilateral theory).
Punishment - some jurisdictions treat all conspiracies as misdemeanors, usually graded in relation to the target offense.
Pinkerton Test - all members of a conspiracy can be held as accomplices of the crime and of any foreseeable result of it. Liability holds even if the co-conspirator did not assist the perpetrator.

Actus Reus
Agreement to commit a crime; attempt to commit a crime; solicit another to commit an offense; aid another in planning or commission of an offense.

Object of Agreement - must be a criminal act.

Nature of Agreement - ?

Act Doctrine - No overt act is required for serious (1st or 2nd degree) felonies, but required for all other offences.

Merger - merges unless there are further conspiratorial crimes to be carried out.
Mens Rea

purpose to promote or facilitate the object crime.

Mere knowledge is not usually enough, but can be when combined with a stake in the success of the object crime.
Attendant Circumstances - Code is silent here, expressly leaving this to the court to decide.
Number of Parties Needed - one with the requisite mens rea (unilateral theory).
Punishment - punishment is the same for conspiracy as for the object crime in all cases but 1st degree felonies.
Pinkerton Doctrine is rejected - if the conspiracy goes beyond the intended purpose, one is not guilty of any foreseeable crime unless he can be said to have aided and abetted in its commission.

MPC - knowledge is not enough. CL - knowledge may be enough.
MPC does not speak on attendant circumstances.
Object of agreement must be criminal under MPC vs. unlawful / wrongful in CL
MPC is unilateral.
CL lets  off if state cannot prove that there was another person with the requisite mens rea.
Overt act requirements differ. MPCe merges and CL does not.
MPC has heavier punishments.
MPC rejects the Pinkerton Doctrine.
CL Attendant Circumstances is counter-intuitive because how can you agree to do something of which you are not aware.
CL - In jurisdictions that do not accept Pinkerton, you can be a conspirator and not an accomplice.
Hearsay evidence may be brought in to prove the conspiracy, but not the substantive offense.


Common Law



No factual Impossibility

No legal impossibility

once the offense is completed (once there is agreement) abandonment is not a defense. Can relieve liability for future crime of former conspirators.

No factual impossibility

No legal impossibility

if the conspirator renounces his criminal purpose and thwarts the success of the conspiracy under circumstances demonstrating a complete an voluntary renunciation of criminal intent.


1.Murder - unlawful killing of a human being

Common Law



Homicide with malice aforethought.
Malice Aforethought has four possible states of mind

intention to kill another human - One may, but need not, infer the intent to kill from the use of a deadly weapon

intention to inflict serious bodily harm (great bodily injury)
Gross recklessness (malignant heart)- Acts in the face of an unusually high risk that conduct will cause death of serious bodily harm. Under certain exceptional circumstances.
Felony murder - during the commission or attempted commission of a felony in which death results.

A killing committed purposely or knowingly, or gross recklessness. Premeditation and deliberation are not required.

Gross recklessness – reckless under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.

MPC includes GBH under recklessness.
MPC's mens rea is equivalent to CL's intent.

When MPC uses recklessness as the mens rea, it is similar to CL's malignant heart killings.

Statutes have been enacted whick give degrees of to CL murder
first degree includes certain enumerated types of homicide (lying in wait; by poison, etc.); or a willful, deliberate, and premeditated (WDP) killing; or felony murder (enumerated felonies include arson, rape, robbery, or burglary).
All other forms are 2nd degree murder. "malignant heart" is usually 2nd degree

a.Provocation - mitigates murder to voluntary manslaughter

Common Law



Must committed in sudden heat of passion under adequate provocation

Heat of passion

Adequate provocation:

Aggravated assault or battery

Mutual combat

Serious crime against close relative

Illegal arrest

Observation of infidelity

No cooling off period

Causal link between provocation, passion and homicide

Extreme Mental or Emotional Disturbance - Homicide committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there is reasonable explanation or excuse.

MPC equivalent of provocation

MPC requires that  be aware of the risk being taken (recklessness). MPC’s use of EMED is a broader form of the CL provocation defense.
EMED v Heat of Passion (HoP)
EMED applies to all types of homicide vs. HoP se only applies to intentional homicides
EMED words alone may be adequate vs. HoP where they are not
EMED has no cooling time requirement and HoP does.

b. felony Murder

Common Law



One is guilty if she kills another person, even accidentally, during the commission or attempted commission of any felony.
Inherently dangerous test – The lower bound for acceptable felonies. The felony must be inherently dangerous.
Merger Rule – Upper bound for acceptable felonies. Felony must be independent from the murder. This excludes felonies arising during the commission of a murder.
The causation limitation requires that the killing be in furtherance of the felony. The mere fact that a death occurs during the commission of a felony will not necessarily subject the felon to felony M.
The central issue is the foreseeable risk of death. In most jurisdictions, no felony M if the person who commits the homicide is a non-felon who is resisting the felony.
A few states apply a proximate causation test which holds a felon responsible for the killing by a non-felon if the felon proximately caused the death / set in motion the events that lead to the death.
Suicide Exception - if the co-felon shoots himself, it is not homicide at all, but a suicide

Does not distinguish felony murder, but MPC raises a presumption of “recklessness and indifference to human life” if the  during the commission or attempt of certain felonies. However, this is not absolute, the prosecution must still prove it. The jury is simply permitted to infer extreme indifference to human life from the commission of the felony.  may present evidence that the felony was committed the in a manner that does not manifest extreme indifference to human life. It is up to the jury to decide. Therefore, gross recklessness during a felony can be a predicate for felony M.

Code does not have an express felony M rule.
If the felony is one of the enumerated felonies (arson, burglary, robbery, or rape), then this M is 1st degree. If not, then it is 2nd degree.


Common Law



Voluntary MS – homicide without malice aforethought
"Heat of passion" - Intentional killing committed in response to legally adequate provocation
Imperfect justification – A killing that is the result of an act, lawful in itself, but done in an unlawful manner.
Involuntary MS – unintended killing
Criminal Negligence – Killing resulting from gross negligence. (This would include MPC recklessness as well)
Unlawful Act “Misdemeanor manslaughter” - an unintentional killing that occurs during the commission of an unlawful act. Includes malum in se (wrong in itself) felonies and misdemeanors.

Reckless - unlike reckless M, here the conduct, although reckless, does not manifest an extreme indifference to the value of human life
Extreme Mental or Emotional Disturbance (EMED)

3.NEgligent Homicide

Common Law




A criminally negligent killing

Equivalent to involuntary MS under the Common Law


A.Justification - conduct that is otherwise criminal, but that here is either "right" or "not wrong" under the circumstances.

1.Self Defense

Common Law



 if not the aggressor is justified in using force if
 reasonably believes it is necessary to defend ’s person

 must be threatened with a physical harm

 reasonably believed the threatened harm is unlawful

The force used must be proportional.

Deadly force must additionally show

reasonable belief  is imminently facing deadly force.

 had no opportunity to retreat (Old common law standard)
 may always use non-deadly force to protect oneself against an unlawful aggressor.
When  is the aggressor, he loses his right to use force.  may purge himself of his status as the aggressor and regain his right to self-defense by removing himself from the fray and successfully communicating that fact.
If , as the aggressor uses non-deadly force, and victim responds with deadly force,  may immediately regain his right to self-defense.
 does not have to retreat within 's own dwelling even if one could do so in complete safety.

 if not the aggressor is justified in using (deadly) force if
 honestly believes such force is immediately necessary to protect ’s person

harm is unlawful

Deadly force is justified if one faces a threat of death, GBH, forcible rape, or kidnapping. A threat without that purpose is not deadly force, even if a weapon backs up the threat.
If  know/realizes he can be completely safe by retreating  must
if  unlawfully starts a non-lethal conflict, he does not lose his privilege of self-defense if V escalates it into a lethal assault.

Retreat is required within one's home or office if the actor was the initial aggressor and he wishes to regain his right to self-defense or even if he was not the aggressor

 no duty to retreat from home, even from a co-dweller.

MPC looks at the 's subjective belief, the belief need not be reasonable.

If 's belief was negligently or recklessly formed, one can be liable for reckless or negligent use of deadly force

MPC replaces imminence with the phrase "immediately necessary" so that one may use force sooner under than CL.

MPC - deadly force is more broad than CL one who acts with the purpose causing death or GBH qualifies

In CL force not likely to cause death or GBH is not deadly force even if it was the 's purpose to kill.
MPC does not include the non-deadly aggressor


Common Law



 is justified if he reasonably believes that he is avoiding the greater evil.

Balance of evils must be positive.

There must not be an alternative.

The harm must be imminent.

 may not have created the necessity.

 can never take another's life out of necessity.

se only applies when a natural force created the necessity.

When the balance of evils is negative,  may be held strictly liable.

 is not justified unless  not only reasonably believe that  is avoiding the greater harm, but  is actually avoiding the greater harm.

Balance of evils must be positive.

There is no immediacy requirement a

 may not have intentionally caused the necessity.

 may take a life if the balance of evils is positive. se may apply in homicide cases

This se applies but not limited to emergencies created by natural forces, nor is limited to physical harm to persons or property.

If 's belief is mistaken, can be held for crime requiring either negligence or recklessness.

If  negligently or recklessly caused the necessity, he may be held for crimes of negligence and recklessness.


MPC requires that 's reasonable belief actually be true.

MPC does not have an immediacy requirement.

MPC if  caused it accidentally, he can still claim necessity though if he recklessly or negligently created the necessity, he may be held for crimes of recklessness and negligence.

MPC allows se in cases where a natural force did not create the necessity.

B.Excuse - wrongful conduct, but under the circumstances, D is not morally culpable or blameworthy


Common Law



 may be excused if

 was threatened with death or GBH (or if a 3rd party is so threatened) by another human

 reasonably believes that the threat is genuine

felt that the threat was "present, imminent, and impending" at the time of the act

 felt that the only way to avoid the harm was to give in to the threat

 was not at fault in exposing himself to the threat.

Duress is not a defense to an intentional killing. Some states recognize an imperfect defense whereby murder is reduced to manslaughter.

Duress is an affirmative defense to unlawful conduct by  if

was compelled to commit the offense by the use or threatened use of force by the coercer upon her or another

A person of reasonable firmness in 's situation would (also) have been unable to resist the coercion.

se is not available if  recklessly placed herself in the position where she would likely be subject to coercion.

If  negligently put herself into such a position, the se is available to her for all cases except those in which negligence suffices to establish culpability.

MPC abandons the CL requirements of deadly force and immanency in favor of excusing  whenever a person of reasonable firmness would also have yielded to coercion;
MPC se is one of general applicability may be used in murder cases
MPC does not require that an imperiled party be s relative.
MPC similar to CL in that se is limited to threats or use of unlawful force and does not apply to coercion by natural sources.
MPC does not recognize se when any interest other than bodily integrity is threatened.


Common Law



M'Naghten Rule –  is insane if, at the time of the criminal act, he was laboring under such a defect of reason, arising from a disease of the mind, that he

Did not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or

If he did know it, if he did not know that what he was doing was wrong (i.e. he did not know the difference between right and wrong).

Irresistible impulse test - that states that  was insane if

She acted from an irresistible and uncontrollable impulse;

She lost the power to choose between right and wrong and to avoid doing the act in question, as that her free agency was at the time destroyed; or

The 's will … has been otherwise than voluntarily so completely destroyed that her actions are not subject to it, but are beyond her control.

Pure cognitive test concerned with 's ability to appreciate the nature and quality of his conduct. Is the current law

Substansial capacity- One is not responsible for her criminal conduct if, at the time of the act, as a result of a mental disease or defect:

 lacked substantial capacity to

Appreciate the wrongfulness/criminality of  conduct or

To conform  conduct to the requirements of the law

MPC incorporates a revised version of the M'Naghten test + pure cognitive test.

C. General


a.Of Fact

Common Law



Must negate mens rea of the crime charged. .

 not guilty if MoF negates the specific intent portion of the offense.

For general intent offenses not guilty if MoF was honest and reasonable. Guilty if MoF was honest, but unreasonable

Moral Wrong test – If granted MoF, will hold  for a higher offense when were the situation as he supposed it to be, his conduct constituted this lesser offense.

Must negate the mental state required to establish any element of the offense.
Logical Relevance Test - figure out the mens rea for each and every element of the crime.

If granted MoF, will hold  for a lesser offense when were the situation as he supposed it to be, his conduct constituted this lesser offense.

 steals diamonds believing they’re glass - MPC  petty larceny; CL  grand larceny.  steals glass believing it‘s diamonds, MPC  petty larceny and attempted grand larceny and CL  petty larceny and attempted grand larceny.

MPC – Look at the world through the ’s eyes in a factual (not legal) manner

MPC/CL - No mistakes get you off for strict liability.

b.Of Law

Common Law



No defense, but exceptions.

Exceptions - mistake must be reasonable and honest.

Collateral Law

Reliance on Official Statement

No reasonable notification/publishing

Specification in Statute that knowledge of law is req’d.

MPC does not recognize a defense of mistake of law unless there is express negation

Specification in Statute that knowledge of law is req’d.

Collateral Law

Reliance on Official Statement

No reasonable notification/publishing

CL and MPC approaches are similar. In general, unless falling into a recognized exception, ignorance of the law is no defense.

MPC codifies the CL reasonable reliance doctrine.


a.Of Fact

Common Law



None; that is, the person who tries to shoot someone with a water gun, thinking it was a real gun, would not have a defense of factual impossibility. If the facts were as he believed them to be the victim would be dead. Some cases look like factual impossibility but are not; ex. man attempts to kill victim with voodoo doll. While this is impossible, it is inherently impossible, not per se factually impossible; in the voodoo case the victim would still be alive if the facts were as he supposed them.

Same as common law.

b.Of Law

Common Law



Cannot punish for a crime that is not a crime.
Hybrid legal impossibility - Where the actors goal is illegal but impossible due to a factual mistake of a legal status of an attendant circumstance. ie. Man has sex with girl thinking she is 15 when she is really 18. Some courts recognize this se

Same as common law. No Hybrid legal impossibility. (MPC looks at mens rea)

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