Dressler, p. 135-155: General Issues in Proving Culpability


1.     “Intent”


Case: People v. Conley


1.     The Model Penal Code Approach


American Law Institute Commentary


1.     Mental culpability must be proved with respect to each element of an offense.

2.     The Model Penal Code draws a distinction between purpose and knowledge.

3.     In the Model Penal Code, Recklessness means conscious risk creation.

4.     Negligence means creation of risk of which the person ought to be aware.

5.     If a statute doesn’t say otherwise, a person must be proven to have acted purposefully, knowingly or recklessly.


Model Penal Code § 2.02


Notes and Questions



A.   Jacob killed Vanessa purposely because that’s his conscious object.  Jacob killed Xavier purposely too, because § 2.03(2)(a) says that the actual result differs from the contemplated one “only in the respect that a different person” was killed.

B.    I think Roberta killed Sam negligently.  If she sincerely believed that Sam would not be harmed, she didn’t know of the risk to Sam.  However, she should have known.

C.   I think this might bump the culpability up to recklessness because Roberta would now be aware of the risk, at least minimally.

2.     I argued that § 2.03(2)(a) means that Xavier was killed negligently

3.     § 2.02(3) specifically excludes negligence as a kind of culpability that can be attached to an element of an offense if it’s not specifically established.  Thus, Toby is not guilty of robbery.

4.     I would argue that my client’s purpose was not to kill or harm, but to steal a car.  Therefore, my client did not act purposefully with respect to the material element of the crime that requires him to intend to “cause death or serious bodily harm”.  I think this is how the Model Penal Code would deal with this too.  Each element must be done purposely.  Negligently doesn’t cut it.


2.     “Knowledge” of Attendant Circumstances


Case: State v. Nations


3.     Problems in Statutory Interpretation


Case: United States v. Morris


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