Monday, February 07, 2005


By Stockton

Criminal Law will teach you about the criminal justice system, the elements that define a crime and how to succesfully commit them.

Legal systems serve a purpose and the crimal justice system is no different. Action taken against law breakers is designed to serve three purposes:

1- Remove dangerous people from society;
2- Deter others;
3- Provide plot lines for television shows.

If our Criminal Justice system cannot accomplish these goals, society will become more dangerous and there will be nothing to watch on Thursday nights.

Unlike much of Tort and Contract Law, Criminal Law is codified (that is, written down, breaded, deep-fried and served with tartar sauce). Criminal Law is codified to put people on notice as to what behavior is illegal. For instance, in New York, a person who contemplates an act can go to his or her livingroom book case, pull out their copy of McKinney's Annotated Statutes and perform research to make sure what they plan to do is legal ("Damn! I guess it doesn't matter that I think she is eighteen").


Crimes consist of elements* and though each crime is unique, most share some some common elements.

1. Mens Rea;
2. Actus Reus;
3. Damaged Medulla Oblongata;**
4. Cynical detectives;
5. Getting caught.

A thorough criminal will keep a checklist to ensure he has succesfully included all elements in his crime. It is important that each element be performed. Many criminals look down on colleagues that talk of their intention to pull off big crimes but never go through with the crime. "He's all Mens Rea and no Actus Reus" is a common insult. If you are new to the Criminal Law field, consult your attorney to make sure you've hit all the right elements. You don't want to be arrested for Burglarly 2nd if you were shooting for Robbery One.

A State Matter

Criminal Law is largely a state matter. While there are Federal Criminal Statutes, states have a wide latitude in choosing what acts are legal and which are illegal. Therefore, an illegal act in one state, may be perfectly acceptable behavior in another state. For instance, acts that constitute Rape or Sexual Assault in New York or Minnesota might be considered mere wooing or goin' a courtin' in Mississippi or Oklahoma.

Name Concerns

One thing often overlooked by the new criminal is the choice of a good nickname. Some memorable nicknames have included, Machine Gun Jimmy, Bill the Butcher and Mike the Mortician. Unfortunately, most of the good nicknames have been chosen and registered by older criminals. To avoid copyright infringment, many new criminals wait until older criminals retire (thus freeing up the nickname) or purchase the nickname outright.***

Choosing the Right Crime for You

Crimes are usually committed for pleasure or for profit (ocassionally the two overlap). Either goal is acceptable but the young criminal should choose his crime carefully. A crime of pleasure will almost never bring profit and a crime for profit can many times be unenjoyable. For example, Sal "the Veternarian" repeatedly violated New York Penal Law 270.20 (nonconsensual sexual contact with an animal) over the course of three years until he was finally informed that there was no money in it.

Rare, but not unheard of, is the crime that is unenjoyable and profitless. For instance, plagarizing the collected works of Rod McKuen is downright painful and might actually cost you money for copying expenses.

Miscellaneous Tips

There are also certain unwritten rules that should be honored if you are to be considered a serious player in the Criminal Law field:

1) In a shoot-out, the criminal gets the first two shots. If the police do not return fire, the expert criminal will stop firing and make sure his adversary is OK or would like to reschedule;

2) If you are arrested (pinched) and interrogated, don't immediately ask for an attorney. That is considered bad form. Always allow police interrogators to ask a few questions before asking for counsel;

3) Feel free to aid a rookie officer if you are his first interrogation. Remember, you and the officer might have a long, professional relationship.

4) If you and a partner are both caught, don't fall for the old, "Your partner is about to talk and he'll be the one to get the deal." The police officer who says this is almost always lying.

5) If you are pulled over and asked: "How many drinks have you had tonight?", always say "Two". If you say one, they'll know you're lying. If you say three or more, now you're just bragging.

* Some jurists theorize that elements can be further broken down into nano-elements, undetectable by the human eye.

** A section of the human brain, not a Police album.

** This was how the infamous Tommy "the Dental Hygienist" became Tommy "the Restaurant Critic".

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