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Criminal Law

Accomplice Liability - Actus Reus Requirement

This is one in a series of lessons on accomplice liability. In earlier lessons, we examined how accomplices were classified under the common law and the Model Penal Code. In addition, we examined the mens rea requirement for accomplice liability. In this lesson, we continue the discussion by examining the actus reus requirement of accomplice liability. This lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class, and who wish to further refine their knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Accomplice Liability - Mens Rea

This lesson continues our discussion of accomplice liability. In a prior lesson, we examined how the common law and the Model Penal Code classified various types of accomplices. In another prior lesson, we examined the actus reus requirement for accomplice liability. In this lesson, we continue the discussion by focusing on the mens rea requirement for accomplice liability. The lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class, and who wish to refine their understanding and knowledge of the topic.

Actus Reus

This exercise provides an introduction to the act requirement. In particular, it addresses the definition of "act," voluntariness, liability for omissions (failures to act), and possession offenses.

Ambiguous Culpability Requirements

This is the second in a series of lessons on culpability requirements under the Model Penal Code (MPC). This lesson, which assumes students are familiar with the basic requirement that every material element have a state of mind, addresses the state of mind that applies to each element when one or more states of mind are contained in an MPC criminal statute.

Battered Woman's Syndrome

This is a lesson on battered woman syndrome with respect to the defense of self-defense. Over the last few decades, there has developed in the legal literature a recognition of this, and other similar syndromes, in the context of homicide cases. The situation of an abused person who kills the abuser raises questions about the basis for a defense of self-defense in circumstances that might not easily fit into the traditional self-defense mold. Though courts allow the defense in many cases, the invocation of the defense still presents problems in certain situations.


This exercise provides an overview of the concept of causation. Factual cause is distinguished from legal cause, and causation in general from mens rea and attempt. Specific issues covered include simultaneous causes, different victim, different manner, and different injury.


This is a basic lesson covering the common law doctrine of concurrence. At common law, crimes required not only an actus reus and a mens rea but concurrence of the two. Through use of scenarios involving the common law crimes of murder, robbery, burglary and larceny (which are briefly introduced), the requirements for concurrence are explored. In addition, also through the use of scenarios, the doctrine is distinguished from the related doctrines of causation and mistake. Finally, concurrence as to attendant circumstances is also addressed.


This lesson explores the various ways in which the criminal law considers victim consent. Topics include consent as negating an offense element, consent as justification, effective consent, and limitations on consent as a defense.

Constitutional Limitations: 8th Amendment

This exercise provides a general overview of the Eighth Amendment as it applies to substantive criminal law. It outlines the Amendment's potential scope as well as its actual reach, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. Procedural criminal law (and the Court's capital punishment jurisprudence in particular) is ignored, except insofar as it bears on substantive criminal law or helps to define the Amendment's scope.