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Criminal Law Sample Answer

The following is a sample answer to the Criminal Law Practice Exam. If you have not already done so, take the exam and then compare your answer to this sample. If necessary, you can also review the Criminal Law Rules of Law for this exam. Since law school professors vary in what they consider excellent work, this answer is only presented as a sample.


Conspiracy

The agreement to commit rape gives rise to the issue of whether any of the students are guilty of conspiracy to commit rape.

The common law rule for conspiracy requires that two or more people actually agree and intend to agree to commit a crime and that one conspirator commits some overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Here, A asked whether the other men would forcibly have non-consensual intercourse with a woman who was not their wife, which is the definition of common law rape (see below). B agreed by nodding his head. If any of the defendants had intended to just play along, then the intent element required for conspiracy would be absent and the party would be not guilty of the charge. However, there is nothing shown on the facts to suggest that any of the defendants had a different intent than that which their words and gestures showed. When A actually locked the door of the room, this was an overt act, which prepared for the crime. These elements, taken together, are sufficient to make A and B guilty of conspiracy without any further action on their part. Since C, D and E never agreed, they are not guilty of conspiracy.

B effectively withdrew from the conspiracy because he engaged in an affirmative act that gave notice to the other conspirator - A- that he was withdrawing and there was enough time for A to halt his plan to rape Mary. While this does not provide B with a defense for the conspiracy charge, it does give him a defense against the charges of subsequent crimes by A.


Rape

The next issue is whether any of the students are guilty of rape.

The rule on common law rape requires sexual intercourse between a female and a male, who is not her husband, and where the female does not consent. The lack of consent can be shown if the intercourse occurs by force, threats of force or if the female is unable to consent because of unconsciousness.

Here, A and D are both males who had intercourse with Mary, a female, who was not the wife of any of the guys. B, C and E never had intercourse with Mary and thus are not guilty of rape.

Mary showed a lack of consent to have sex with A before the actual conspiracy began. She again showed her lack of consent when she objected as the conspiracy began. Finally, the mere use of force in A's case showed that there was no consent.

In the case of D, the issue is not as clear cut. Although she had agreed to have sex with D prior to the conspiracy, the fact of the conspiracy, false imprisonment and rape by A would probably result in any reasonable person changing their mind. Furthermore, since she was in a state of unconsciousness, this manifests a lack of consent under the law. While D may have a defense of consent, it all likelihood, he is also guilty of rape.


Attempted Rape

The issue is whether C is guilty of attempted rape.

Under the common law, a defendant is guilty of an attempted crime when the criminal shows intent to commit a crime and comes dangerously close to successfully completing the crime.

Here, C showed his intent to commit the crime of rape by stating that he intended to force Mary to have sex. He came dangerously close because he took his clothes off and got on the bed until he finally passed out. Although he never actually had intercourse with Mary and thus is not guilty of rape, he came quite close to completing the crime and thus can be charged with attempted rape.


Murder

The next issue is whether any of the defendants is guilty of murder.

Common law murder requires a killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought exists if there is intent to kill, intent to cause substantial injury, reckless indifference to the risk that a person may die or intent to commit a felony.

Here, Abe choked Mary, another human being, until she was dead. Malice aforethought is shown because Abe's choking Mary was, at very least, reckless as to the risk that a person will die. It is common knowledge that cutting off the air to a person by choking him may cause him to stop breathing and die. Abe has no reasonable defense under these circumstances. If a jury finds that he was not reckless, then he can be brought in under the felony murder rule.

Common law felony murder exists if a death occurred while a criminal committed a felony that is inherently dangerous. Rape is considered an inherently dangerous felony.

Since A and D both committed rape and Mary died while still within the time and place of the crime, both are guilty of felony murder. It is less clear whether attempted rape is an inherently dangerous crime and whether C would also be guilty of felony murder. Here the issue probably hinges on intent. In Felony Murder, malice is inferred from the intent to commit the underlying dangerous felony. Since C intended to commit the crime of rape, malice should be inferred to the same degree that it is in the case of A and D. Therefore, following that theory, it was as if C had actually committed the rape and therefore would be guilty of the crime of felony murder.

Since B withdrew from the conspiracy, he is not responsible for the crimes of his fellow co-conspirators and therefore is not guilty of felony murder or murder.


Accessory to Rape and Homicide

The issue is whether B is guilty as an accessory after the fact to rape and murder.

The common law rule on accessory after the fact requires that a defendant have knowledge that a felony was committed and aided or assisted the felon in some way to avoid being caught by the authorities.

Here, B knew of the crimes because A, C and D told him. Because he let them stay in his room in order that they wouldn't be found with a dead body, one can reasonably conclude that he was helping them escape detection by the police. Thus, B is guilty of being an accessory after the fact to rape and homicide.

It should be noted that E had no part in any of the crimes. Although he was a witness to the events, that does not make him guilty of the crimes since he neither acted nor showed any intent to act. Furthermore, he was not an accessory after the fact because he did not aid in the others escape. He went to his own room after the events. Although an argument could be made that he complied in the crimes, there is no actus reus that suggests he could be found guilty for any of the crimes.


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