Criminal law is that branch of law governing offenses against society. Most criminal law requires a specific intent to commit the prohibited act (although a very few economic acts, made criminal by modern legislation, dispense with the requirement of intent). In this way, criminal law differs from much of civil law—for example, from the tort of negligence, in which carelessness, rather than intent, can result in liability.
Major crimes are known as felonies. Minor crimes are known as misdemeanors. Most people have a general notion about familiar crimes, such as murder and theft. But conventional knowledge does not suffice for understanding technical distinctions among related crimes, such as larceny, robbery, and false pretenses. These distinctions can be important because an individual can be found guilty not merely for committing one of the acts defined in the criminal law but also for attempting or conspiring to commit such an act. It is usually easier to convict someone of attempt or conspiracy than to convict for the main crime, and a person involved in a conspiracy to commit a felony may find that very little is required to put him into serious trouble.
Of major concern to the business executive is white-collar crime, which encompasses a host of offenses, including bribery, embezzlement, fraud, restraints of trade, and computer crime. Anyone accused of crime should know that they always have the right to consult with a lawyer and should always do so.
- Bill is the chief executive of a small computer manufacturing company that desperately needs funds to continue operating. One day a stranger comes to Bill to induce him to take part in a cocaine smuggling deal that would net Bill millions of dollars. Unbeknownst to Bill, the stranger is an undercover policeman. Bill tells the stranger to go away. The stranger persists, and after five months of arguing and cajoling, the stranger wears down Bill’s will to resist. Bill agrees to take delivery of the cocaine and hands over a down payment of $10,000 to the undercover agent, who promptly arrests him for conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws. What defenses does Bill have?
- You are the manager of a bookstore. A customer becomes irritated at having to stand in line and begins to shout at the salesclerk for refusing to wait on him. You come out of your office and ask the customer to calm down. He shouts at you. You tell him to leave. He refuses. So you and the salesclerk pick him up and shove him bodily out the door. He calls the police to have you arrested for assault. Should the police arrest you? Assuming that they do, how would you defend yourself in court?
- Marilyn is arrested for arson against a nuclear utility, a crime under both state and federal law. She is convicted in state court and sentenced to five years in jail. Then the federal government decides to prosecute her for the same offense. Does she have a double-jeopardy defense against the federal prosecution?
- Tectonics, a US corporation, is bidding on a project in Nigeria, and its employee wins the bid by secretly giving $100,000 to the Nigerian public official that has the most say about which company will be awarded the contract. The contract is worth $80 million, and Tectonics expects to make at least $50 million on the project. Has a crime under US law been committed?
- Suppose that the CEO of Tectonics, Ted Nelson, is not actually involved in bribery of the Nigerian public official Adetutu Adeleke. Instead, suppose that the CFO, Jamie Skillset, is very accomplished at insulating both top management and the board of directors from some of the “operational realities” within the company. Skillset knows that Whoopi Goldmine, a Nigerian employee of Tectonics, has made the deal with Adeleke and secured the contract for Tectonics. Is it possible that Nelson, as well as Skillset, can be found guilty of a crime?
- You have graduated from college and, after working hard for ten years, have scraped enough money together to make a down payment on a forty-acre farm within driving distance to the small city where you work in Colorado. In town at lunch one day, you run into an old friend from high school, Hayley Mills, who tells you that she is saving her money to start a high-end consignment shop in town. You allow her to have a room in your house for a few months until she has enough money to go into business. Over the following weeks, however, you realize that old acquaintances from high school are stopping by almost daily for short visits. When you bring this up to Hayley, she admits that many old friends are now relying on her for marijuana. She is not a licensed caregiver in Colorado and is clearly violating the law. Out of loyalty, you tell her that she has three weeks to move out, but you do not prevent her from continuing sales while she is there. What crime have you committed?
- The Center Art Galleries—Hawaii sells artwork, and much of it involves art by the famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The federal government suspected the center of selling forged Dali artwork and obtained search warrants for six locations controlled by the center. The warrants told the executing officer to seize any items that were “evidence of violations of federal criminal law.” The warrants did not describe the specific crime suspected, nor did the warrants limit the seizure of items solely to Dali artwork or suspected Dali forgeries. Are these search warrants valid? 1
1. Jared has made several loans to debtors who have declared bankruptcy. These are unsecured claims. Jared “doctors” the documentation to show amounts owed that are higher than the debtors actually owe. Later, Jared is charged with the federal criminal offense of filing false claims. The standard (or “burden”) of proof that the US attorney must meet in the prosecution is a. beyond all doubt
b. beyond a reasonable doubt
c. clear and convincing evidence
d. a preponderance of the evidence
Jethro, a businessman who resides in Atlanta, creates a disturbance at a local steakhouse and is arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Drunk and disorderly is a misdemeanor under Georgia law. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to
a. one year
b. two years
c. five years
d. none of the above
Yuan is charged with a crime. To find him guilty, the prosecutor must show
a. actus reus and mens rea
b. mens rea only
c. the performance of a prohibited act
d. none of the above
Kira works for Data Systems Ltd. and may be liable for larceny if she steals
a. a competitor’s trade secrets
b. company computer time
c. the use of Data Systems’ Internet for personal business
d. any of the above
Candace is constructing a new office building that is near its completion. She offers Paul $500 to overlook certain things that are noncompliant with the city’s construction code. Paul accepts the money and overlooks the violations. Later, Candace is charged with the crime of bribery. This occurred when
a. Candace offered the bribe.
b. Paul accepted the bribe.
c. Paul overlooked the violations.
d. none of the above