People v. Bray (1975)

US Criminal Law

People v. Bray
‘Still Life with a Gun’ by Alexi Antonov

Knowledge of a criminal act is unquestionably key to any successful conviction, as was shown here in a case between a previously convicted citizen and an irascible district attorney, whose sole prerogative appeared to stem not from lawful application but sheer bloody-mindedness.

Having been arrested in conjunction with an earlier offence in Kansas 1969, the appellant was later sentenced to probation on grounds that his participation was deemed no greater than a misdemeanour, while a lack of criminal activity prior to his conviction noted a man of reasonable character, and so after relocating to California several years later, he was successful in (i) registering to vote, (ii) gaining employment requiring the use of a handgun, and (iii) the purchase and subsequent registration of such a weapon while disclosing his past without reservation.

A little over three years after establishing his new residency the respondent ordered an investigation of the appellant’s property, during which he cooperated and openly showed the investigators his .22 and .38 pistols, however he was still arrested and charged with felonious possession of a concealable firearm under § 12021 of the California Penal Code.

Following his conviction in the Superior Court of San Diego County, the appellant challenged the judgment in the California Fourth District Court of Appeals on grounds that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that ignorance and mistake of fact were viable defences as per § 4.35 of the California Jury Instructions-Criminal (CALJIC), which read that:

“An act committed or an omission made under an ignorance or mistake of fact which disproves any criminal intent is not a crime. Thus a person is not guilty of a crime if he commits an act or omits to act under an honest and reasonable belief in the existence of certain facts and circumstances which, if true, would make such an act unlawful.”

Whereupon the court referred to People v. Hernandez, in which the California Supreme Court had held that:

“[T]he courts have uniformly failed to satisfactorily explain the nature of the criminal intent present in the mind of one who in good faith believes he has obtained a lawful consent before engaging in the prohibited act.”

Before noting how in People v. Vogel the same court had also held that:

[T]he intent with which the unlawful act was done must be proved as well as the other material facts stated in the indictment; which may be by evidence either direct or indirect, tending to establish the fact, or by inference of law from other facts proved.”

And so in light of the obvious judicial oversight, the court sustained the motion that when adjudged as no more than a past minor offender, the appellant had therefore lawfully obtained and exercised his rights when possessing the very items relied upon to convict him, whereupon the previous judgment was reversed in full, while the court reminded the respondents that:

“[K]nowledge that one is a felon becomes relevant where there is a doubt the defendant knew he had committed a felony.”

Nearly there…

United States Law: A Case Study Collection

Final update
‘Are we nearly there’ by Maureen Sherman

As I am now in the preparatory stages of this frankly amazing book, I thought it wise to share with you the work ahead, as for many of you that have never written nor self-published a book before, this kind of information is very useful should you ever decide to ‘take the bull’ by the horns so to speak.

As with any body of work there is a need to edit, proof-read, and index so as to allow future readers the opportunity to navigate the final product as they see fit, and so when reflecting upon how long it took me to finalise ‘The Case Law Compendium’, memory suggests that it took perhaps 1-2 weeks of work, and even then there were noticeable errors once committed to print.

By way of comparison, I have calculated that when working between 7-8 hours per day (without undue interruption), it will take me a little over two months to bring this title to fruition, which as you can imagine is substantially more than my last serious project, however this time around I feel beyond happy inside, and although there are no guarantees that anybody will ever want to buy a copy, I am unashamed to say that I have given all of myself into its writing, and that I have relished absolutely every second of the journey too.

On top of that, my mind and conversely my knowledge of law, is now way beyond anything I could of ever imagined when all of this started, and so if there’s anything that would make me even happier, it would be to have the chance to promote this book across the United States of America (a dream I know), and also to know that thousands of law students and law scholars will draw tremendous benefit from having read it, while to establish myself as a credible legal consultant either here or overseas would simply be the icing on the cake (unless someone out there is willing to help me become a US lawyer, in which case I would probably cry and then pass out).

And so with all of the above now put to electronic ink, I think it’s time for me to get back to work, and look forward to the day when this, my biggest project ever, gets to see the light of day, and hopefully catch the eyes of those seeking legal knowledge in a way never before delivered…so until then please just watch this space and thanks for reading.

 

United States v. Falcone (1940)

US Criminal Law

United States v. Falcone
‘Oranges and Antique Moonshine Jugs’ by J.R. Secor

Criminal conspiracy, while simple enough in its description, is an offence often hard to quantify, and so on this occasion the actions of a lawful vendor proved hard to distinguish from those charged, which resulted in an outcome some may find contradictory to the rule of law.

Indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, the respondent was later convicted as a party to facilitating prohibited still operations, whereupon he challenged the judgment in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on grounds that when selling sugar to his co-defendants, the respondent did so without conscious knowledge of its intended use.

Here the court noted that despite numerous States ruling on the principle, there remained a division as to when a defendant became a co-conspirator, and so in this instance the court elected to follow U.S. v. Peoni, in which it had held that:

“Nobody is liable in conspiracy except for the fair import of the concerted purpose or agreement as he understands it….”

Thereby reversing the trial court judgment, while holding that:

“Civilly, a man’s liability extends to any injuries which he should have apprehended to be likely to follow from his acts. If they do, he must excuse his conduct by showing that the interest which he was promoting outweighed the dangers which its protection imposed upon others….”

Whereupon the Government pressed their argument before the U.S. Supreme Court under writ of certiorari, who proceeded to examine the facts as presented.

For clarity, 18 U.S.C.A. § 550 (now §2) stated that:

“Whoever directly commits any act constituting an offense defined in any law of the United States, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures its commission, is a principal….”

And so the Court held that in mind when referring to Pettibone v. U.S., in which it had held that:

“A conspiracy is sufficiently described as a combination of two or more persons, by concerted action, to accomplish a criminal or unlawful purpose, or some purpose not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means….”

Before noting that in U.S. v. Hirsch it had also held that:

“Although by the statute something more than the common-law definition of a conspiracy is necessary to complete the offence, to wit, some act done to effect the object of the conspiracy, it remains true that the combination of minds in an unlawful purpose is the foundation of the offence, and that a party who did not join in the previous conspiracy cannot, under this section, be convicted on the overt act.”

Thus the Court was left with no other option than to uphold the court of appeal judgment, while conclusively holding that:

“Those having no knowledge of the conspiracy are not conspirators…”