Vocabulary State of Mind

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Chapter 8 Government & Law


  • State of Mind: What one is thinking; most crimes require that the actor have a guilty state of mind, meaning he/she purposely committed the crime.

  • Mens Rea: legal phrase used to describe the mental state that a person must have in order for it to be intentional.

  • Motive: a reason for performing an act.

  • Strict Liability: the legal responsibility for damage/injury even if you are not negligent.

  • Statutory Rape: Act of unlawful sexual intercourse with an adult with someone under the age of consent, even if the minor is willing.

  • Elements: the conditions that make an act unlawful.

  • Felony: A serious criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence of a year or more.

  • Misdemeanor: A criminal offense less serious than a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of a year or less.

  • Principal: the person who commits a crime.

  • Accomplice: A person who voluntarily helps another commit a crime and helps the principal. An accomplice is usually present or aids the crime in some way.

  • Accessory before the Fact: this person helps the crime but is not present for the crime, can be charged the same as the principal

  • Accessory after the Fact: A person who helps the principle avoid capture AFTER the crime has occurred.

  • Crime of Omission: failing to perform an act required by criminal law.

  • Inchoate Crimes: Incomplete crimes.

  • Solicitation: The act of asking another person to commit a crime.

  • Attempt: When someone attempts to commit a crime but fails, all elements of a crime must be present.

  • Conspiracy: An agreement with 2 or more persons to commit a crime.

Overt: An act that is open to view


7.1 Anton is a bully. One night while eating at a local diner, he notices Derek eating at a nearby table. Anton does not like the band displayed on Derek’s T0shirt, so to show his pals who is in charge, Anton orders Derek to sit at another table. When Derek refuses, Anton punches him in the jaw. As a result of the injury, Derek misses several weeks or work and has to pay both medical and dental bills.

a. Has Anton violated civil laws, criminal laws, or both?

Anton has violated both civil and criminal laws prohibiting assault and battery.

b. Who decides whether Anton should be charged criminally? Who decides whether or not to sue Anton in a civil action?

Derek decides whether or not to make a complaint to the police. The owner of the diner or other patrons may also call the police. The police report then goes to the prosecutor, who decides whether or not to charge Anton criminally. Derek also decides whether or not to bring a civil action. A civil action is the most common way for a person who has suffered damages to recover money. However, if Anton is convicted in either an adult or juvenile criminal court, he would generally be required to pay restitution to Derek as part of his sentence or that reimburses crime victims for some of the costs of their victimization.

c. If Anton is charged with a crime and is sued in a civil action , would the civil and criminal cases be tried together? Why or why not?

A civil action and a criminal charge can never be tried in one case. In a criminal case, the state prosecutes the action. In a civil case, a private party brings a lawsuit. There are also differences in the rules of evidence and procedure for civil and criminal cases. The most important difference is the burden of proof facing each party. In a criminal case each element of the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil action the plaintiff need only convince the trier of fact by a preponderance (greater weight) of evidence.

d. Is going to court the only way to handle this problem? What alternatives are there and which do you think would work best?

Certain procedures are not the same. Because a defendant in a criminal case may go to prison, the defendant is entitled to greater due process protections in a criminal case. For example, if someone facing criminal charges cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, he or she will be assigned one by the state. However, the state is not required to provide a lawyer for a defendant in a civil case. In such cases, a legal services office may be able to help the defendant. Also, unanimous jury verdicts are almost always required in criminal cases but less that unanimous jury verdicts are sometimes permitted in civil cases.

8.2 Harold and Marci decide to burglarize Superior Jewelers. Their friend Carl, and employee at Superior, helps by telling them the location of the store vault. Marci drives a van to the store and acts as the lookout while Harold goes inside and cracks the safe. After Harold and Marci make their getaway, Harold meets a friend, Shawn, who was not involved in the actual burglary. Harold tells Shawn about the burglary, and Shawn helps Harold get a train out of town. David, a former classmate of Harold and Marci, witnesses the crime but does not tell the police, even though he recognizes both Harold and Marci.

How will each person be charged? Explain.






**READ** the case of the DROWNING GIRL on page 104 so we can discuss it in class.

8.3 Examine the following situations and decide whether any of the individuals involved would be guilty of the crime of attempt.

a. Martin, a bank teller, figures out a foolproof method of stealing money from the bank. It takes him some time to get up the nerve to steal any money. Finally, he makes up his mind and tells his girlfriend, Yuka, that tomorrow he will steal the money. Yuka goes to the police, and Martin is arrested an hour later.

b. Gilbert, an accomplished thief, is caught while trying to pick Lewis’s pocket. He pleads not guilty and says he cannot possible be convicted, because Lewis did not have a penny on him.

c. Rita and Anwar decide to rob a liquor store. They meet at a pub and talk over their plans. Rita leaves to buy a revolver, and Anwar leaves to steal a car for use in their getaway. Rita is arrested as she walks out of the gun shop with her new revolver. Anwar is arrested while trying to hot-wire a car.

d. Amy decides to burn down her store to collect the insurance money. She spreads gasoline around the building. She is arrested while leaving the store to get a book of matches.

8.4 Three students- Johnson, Hector, and Rajana- hate school. On Monday, they discuss a plan to commit arson and burn down their school. On Tuesday, the three of them purchase kerosene and matches at the local hardware store. On Wednesday, Johnson, Hector, and Rajana load the kerosene and matches into Hector’s truck and drive together to the school. They carry the kerosene and matches towards the school, pour kerosene near the school and light a match. A police officer notices them and runs over to arrest them.

a. At what point, if any, are Johnson, Hector, and Rajana guilty of the crime of conspiracy in most states?

b. At what point, if any, are Johnson, Hector, and Rajana guilty of the crime of attempted arson?

c. Assume that Johnson changes his mind and decides not to participate in the arson after he goes to the hardware store with Hector and Rajana to purchase the kerosene and matches. Could he be charged with any crime? If so, what crime?

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