Criminal and Civil Responsibility

Criminal and Civil Responsibility - Criminal and Civil...

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Unformatted text preview: Criminal and Civil Responsibility Criminal CRJU E491P, Police Liability Spring 2011, Mr. Smith Responsibility and Relationship Responsibility In the same way that the criminal law and the civil law may be said to differ in terms of their objectives and purposes, the responsibility, or culpability, associated with criminal cases and civil cases can also be said to be different. Civil cases differ substantially from criminal cases, not just in terms of the ultimate outcome for a defendant but, also, in terms of how responsibility for the outcome is determined. Responsibility, whether criminal or civil, is premised upon how the law views the duties and relationship between the parties. Relative Reasonableness Relative Unlike the criminal case that seeks to punish a specific prohibited act that is deemed to be violative of societal rules, the civil case attempts to address the “relative reasonableness” of the conduct of the parties in a given situation. Example: A attempts to make a left turn at an intersection but hits B who is driving over the speed limit through the intersection. B sustains injuries and sues A for negligence. Under a comparative negligence system, A might be found to be 80% at fault for hitting B, who technically had the right­of­way, while making the left turn and B might be found to be 20% for speeding. If, in this example, B was driving with a suspended driver’s license, B could be charged criminally for Driving Under Suspension and A’s relative responsibility would have no bearing on B’s criminal charge. Burdens of Proof Burdens In a civil case, there is no presumption of innocence as in the criminal case and, unlike the criminal case, where the responsibility of the defendant must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” (i.e. to a virtual certainty), the defendant’s responsibility in civil court need only be established by “a preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. more likely than not). Example: A and B become involved in an argument. A pulls out a pistol and shoots B, causing him severe injury. A is charged criminally with Assault and Battery with Intent to Kill (ABIK) and is also sued by B for the tort of Battery in order to recover medical costs and damages. In order to prevail in the tort case, B only has to show that it was more likely than not that A shot and injured him, causing his damages. For A to be convicted of the ABIK, it must be shown “beyond a reasonable doubt” both that A shot B and that he had the intent to kill B. Relative Fault Relative In a civil case, the “fault” of the parties may ultimately be determined to be relative, unlike in the criminal case. Example: A and B spend the afternoon at the lake with several of their friends. When they leave, A gives B the keys to A’s car and rides with him although A is well aware that B has been drinking all afternoon and appears to be intoxicated. On the way home, B drives the car off the road, causing significant bodily injury to A and also injuring himself. B is charged with Felony Driving Under the Influence. A also sues B for the damages to his car and for his injuries. In B’s prosecution for Felony DUI, the fact that A provided B the keys to his car is unlikely to have any bearing on B’s criminal responsibility in causing A’s great bodily injury whereas, in the tort action, A’s relative fault in providing an intoxicated B the keys to his car may be deemed to be an “assumption of the risk” that B’s intoxication might foreseeably lead to injury, barring A from recovery. Control of the Case Control At the beginning of the civil case, there is no formalistic public determination of the fault of the defendant, as in criminal cases (e.g. warrant, indictment) and at any time during the case, the “victim” may elect to terminate the proceeding or to accept some offer of settlement from the defendant, without approval of the public. Example: In July 2004, Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, was charged with sexual assault in Eagle County, Colorado. Shortly after the filing of the criminal charges, the alleged victim in the criminal case filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant seeking money damages . The victim refused to participate in the criminal prosecution and, subsequently, reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with Bryant in the civil case. The Duty Concept The Both criminal and civil responsibility are based on the concept of duty. “Duty” refers to the relationship that exists between two or more individuals, or between a legal entity and its members, which identifies permissible or impermissible actions and which sets out the responsibility of individuals or legal entities to abide by the law, whether civil or criminal. Duties may be either positive or negative. In some circumstances a person may have an obligation, under the law, to engage in a certain type of behavior (positive duty) whereas, in other circumstances, there may be a legal obligation to not engage in certain type of behavior (negative duty). Positive Duty Positive SECTION 63­7­310. Persons required to report. (A) A physician, nurse, dentist, optometrist, medical examiner, or coroner, or an employee of a county medical examiner's or coroner's office, or any other medical, emergency medical services, mental health, or allied health professional, member of the clergy including a Christian Science Practitioner or religious healer, school teacher, counselor, principal, assistant principal, social or public assistance worker, substance abuse treatment staff, or childcare worker in a childcare center or foster care facility, police or law enforcement officer, undertaker, funeral home director or employee of a funeral home, persons responsible for processing films, computer technician, or a judge must report in accordance with this section when in the person's professional capacity the person has received information which gives the person reason to believe that a child has been or may be abused or neglected as defined in Section 63­7­20. Negative Duty Negative SECTION 56­5­1555. Speed limitation on mopeds. No person may operate a moped at a speed in excess of twenty­five miles an hour. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days. Duty and Responsibility Duty Absent the existence of some duty between one person and another, or between an entity and an individual, there can be no legal responsibility, criminal or civil, for any injury that may have been inflicted between the parties. Assuming that a duty exists between the defendant and the injured party, the defendant’s actions must, nonetheless, be evaluated under the appropriate standard of behavior in order to determine whether the defendant may be held criminally or civilly responsible for the act causing injury. Determining the Duty Determining Duties in criminal cases are typically imposed by either statute or common law and are recognizable by a penalty specified for their violation. Example: Under SC Code section 16­13­60 it is unlawful to steal a dog and, if convicted, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined five hundred dollars or imprisoned for a term not to exceed six months. Duties in civil cases may also be imposed by statute or common law but generally specify a right to seek redress for their violation, as opposed to any specific relief. Example: Under SC Code section 27­40­610 if a landlord fails to materially comply with a rental agreement, the tenant may initiate an action to recover actual damages and obtain injunctive relief against the landlord. Why Does Duty Matter? Police officers received a report of suspected child abuse and, in conjunction with a DSS caseworker, removed a five year old boy from the home where he lived with his father. As ordered by the Family Court, DSS returned the boy to his home and entered into an agreement with the boy's father. On numerous subsequent occasions, when a DSS social worker visited the home, he noted to his supervisor his suspicions of child abuse and that the father was not complying with the agreement. DSS took no action to remove the boy and, sometime later, he was beaten so severely by his father that he went into a coma. Standard of Behavior Standard As discussed earlier, a single factual situation may give rise to both a crime and a tort. This is an important consideration because the mere fact that an injury has occurred does not, by itself, make the defendant responsible either criminally or civilly. Given a single injury, the characterization of the defendant’s behavior in causing the harm must be identified before criminal or civil responsibility can be assigned. Whether the defendant’s behavior is to be classified as criminal or civil, or neither, will depend, to a great extent, on the defendant’s “state of mind” in causing the injury. Criminal Responsibility Criminal In cases involving criminal responsibility, the defendant who inflicts an injury upon the victim, in violation of a duty, must be shown to have had a “state of mind” in inflicting the injury that can be classified as “criminal.” If the defendant lacks the requisite criminal state of mind for the crime alleged, there can be no criminal responsibility although, potentially, the defendant may have had the requisite state of mind to be civilly responsible. The term used by the criminal law to describe the criminal state of mind is mens rea. Mens Rea Classifications Mens Several different types of state of mind will support criminal responsibility and the particular type will vary according to the type of crime under consideration. The Model Penal Code recognizes the following mental states as supportive of criminal responsibility: Purposeful: the defendant consciously engaged in the conduct in order to cause the injury; Knowing: the defendant was aware that, with practical certainty, the conduct would cause the injury; Reckless: the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustified risk that the conduct would cause the injury; and Negligent: the defendant should have been aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the conduct would cause the injury. Civil Responsibility Civil In cases involving civil responsibility, the defendant who inflicts an injury upon the victim, in violation of a duty, must be shown to have either intentionally inflicted the harm or to have deviated from an acceptable standard of care in the behavior that caused the injury. In civil cases, the responsibility will be determined based upon whether the defendant either intentionally, or negligently, violated a specific duty of care owed to the victim. In criminal cases, the responsibility will be based upon whether the defendant had the requisite mens rea to violate a societal duty. Civil Fault Classifications Civil Civil cases involving personal injury are referred to as tort cases. The classification of fault in tort cases is dependent upon whether the injury was intended by the defendant or inadvertent. Cases involving the intentional infliction of injury are referred to as intentional tort cases, whereas cases involving unintended injuries are referred to as negligence cases. The evaluation of fault in an intentional tort case will be similar to the evaluation in a criminal case, whereas the evaluation of fault in a negligence case will be based upon a comparison to the behavior of a hypothetical “reasonable person,” as will be discussed in later classes. Why Does Level of Fault Matter? Police officers in City A receive a report of a speeding vehicle being pursued by City B through their jurisdiction. In attempting to assist officers of City B, Officer Smith of City A, attempts to catch up with the pursuit in his patrol car and, in doing so, negligently runs through an intersection where he collides with an innocent motorist killing him and his passenger. In attempting to stop the vehicle, Officer Wesson of City B, pulls his patrol car along side the car and intentionally “bumps” it with his own vehicle, causing it to careen off the road and strike a utility pole, killing the driver and his passenger. Measures of Responsibility Measures The responsibility that a defendant assumes for injury caused to another will vary depending upon whether the injury is criminal or civil in nature. Criminal cases in which the defendant’s responsibility has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” may result in the imposition of a sentence of incarceration, the assessment of a fine, or both. Other sanctions may be possible as well. Civil cases in which the defendant’s responsibility has been proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” will likely result in an award of damages, either nominal, compensatory or punitive, or the imposition of some other relief such as an injunction. ...
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