Criminal liability Research Essay

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In most cases, the term "criminal liability" refers to the obligation to accept responsibility for any actions that led to unlawful outcomes that harm or destroy property or other people. Criminal liabilities typically result from situations where someone violates the law and does so while also committing a criminal act. Additionally, there are two types of liabilities: main and secondary. While secondary criminal liability refers to someone taking responsibility for an act they did not commit, it is especially relevant in situations where the person directly responsible does not uphold their obligation. Primary criminal liability refers to a criminal activity in which a person directly responsible for it takes the obligation. Under legal circumstances, the prosecutor is governed by various principles that guide in the prosecution of a crime. Since crimes are usually composed of various elements as to how and why the criminal act was committed. The elements involved in the consideration include lack of legal justification, prohibited action, and the mental state of the offender. For an act to be considered as a crime, it must be comprised of both the guilty mind, usually referred to as mens rea and the criminal act that is usually conceptualized as actus reus.

The criminal act entails people performing an act that is prohibited under the law. For instance, carrying an item at a supermarket is not prohibited nor is it wrong to walk out with an item from the supermarket. However, it is prohibited to walk out of the supermarket with an item without paying for it. Therefore, performing a prohibited act knowingly warranties the act to be perceived as a crime. As a result, for a crime to be committed, both actus reus and mens rea have to be experienced at the same time.

Under the guilty mind, it can be established that a criminal act is usually comprised of a mental state except under the case of strict liability. Therefore, when a person feels guilty of the act they have done, then the act is perceived as a prohibited conduct. Therefore, according to the American Law Institute, there are four basic standards that can be applied for every criminal act done by an individual. These standards can be used to refer to the various liabilities that offenders can be charged with.

Purposely Criminal Liability

Under this liability, a person performs an act with an intention to achieve a particular result. For instance, a person who is in a stable state of mind making a decision to do something he or she is interested in attaining a particular outcome can be perceived as having performed the act with intent and therefore constituting a criminal act. As a result, harming someone or something intentionally can lead to someone being charged and thus required to take responsibility. For example, someone may assault an animal with the intention of driving it out of the compound, throwing a stone at a tiger with an intention to create fun and laughter, among others.

Taking, for example, the case provided, it can be noted that Connor decides to create his amusement after Faatima refuses to talk to him. In creating the entertainment, he throws a lit brochure into a cabin for the zookeeper. Although the zookeeper was not in, the act can be conceptualized as a criminal act since Connor does it intentionally and purposefully to create amusement for Faatima and himself.

Similarly, the same scenario was experienced under the 2000 case of the people of the United States of America vs. Dorian Lowe. In this case, Lowe, a high school student, is charged with the possession of marijuana, a controlled substance, which she intended to distribute within and outside the school. It can thus be seen that the intention to distribute the substance indicates that the defendant committed the crime purposely. According to the Model Penal Code, it is seen that a person committing a criminal act will be held liable if the elements involved comprise of conscious engagement in causing a certain result. Both Connor and Lowe can, therefore, be responsible for performing their acts and hence criminal liability.

Knowingly Criminal Liability

When a person commits an act while he or she is aware and understands the nature and the possible consequences of the act, it can be conceptualized as knowingly committing a crime. According to the Model Penal Code, a person is established to be acting knowingly when he or she is aware of what the act will cause and practically certain that the at will lead to a particular result. Under this liability, the person does not cause a certain consequence with intent although he or she understands with certainty that a certain outcome will be experienced.

Considering the provided case, it can be observed that Faatima throws a glass bottle at Connor with a pretext that she was still angry at him. Since she knew that there was an obvious consequence of hurting Connor besides contributing to heavy bleeding, it can be established that she knowingly threw the glass at him despite being fully aware of the consequences.

The case with Fatima can be related to the 2010 case of the people of America vs. Alex Johnson. In this case, Alex decided to participate in exam irregularity by cheating at his final exam for high school. Considering the possible consequences of this act, it can be established that Alex was fully aware and knew the repercussions of cheating in exams. As a result, Alex met an abrupt end to his career when he was found out by the administration and the case later filed.

Recklessly Criminal Liability

According to the ranking of the culpabilities, recklessly can be considered as of a lower rank compared to both knowingly. As much as the reckless crimes may not be as common as both purposely and knowingly crimes, the person committing the crime will be held accountable for their actions. For instance, the defendant is termed to have committed a reckless act by consciously disregarding substantial risk that will eventually result in harm. Under this liability, it is imperative that the person committing the crime must be aware of the substantial risk and ignore the risks by taking the unjustifiable risk especially under circumstances where there is no valid reason for the existence of a risk. According to the Modal Pena Code, the person committing a reckless offense disregards the degree and nature of a certain act by grossly deviating from the set standards of conduct by which a law-abiding individual is bound under similar circumstances.

In the view of the case provided, it is noted that Connor acts recklessly by throwing a stone at the golden pheasant at the zoo. The act by Connor is reckless in a manner that anyone in his position understands that throwing a stone at a bird at a zoo or any other place runs the risk of hurting the bird. Despite these, Connor does not heed the possible risks in which there is no reasonable individual who would perform such an act. A similar scenario can be observed under the 1987 case of people of the state of Michigan vs. Tony C. Jones. In this case, Jones, a club manager, organizes a concert without acquiring the necessary authorization required from the City Council which would provide security for the event. As a result, there arises two groups: observers and demonstrators. The clash of the two groups resulted in problems, and even the demonstrators refused to despite forcing the police to arrest them. Judging from the reckless act by Jones to hold a concert without clear authorization from the relevant sources, he was aware of the substantial risk he was running, and yet he went ahead with the plans. Judging from the two cases, that for Connor and Jones, it can be noted that being reckless in the scenarios resulted in adverse results. The actions exhibited by the two individuals can be conceptualized as criminal liabilities since there is no possibility for a law abiding person capable of engaging in such acts under similar circumstances. The awareness of the risk of injuring the bird under the case for Connor is highly likely that it is substantial.

Negligently Criminal Liability

The criminal acts that can be perceived as negligent are less common and less culpable compared to reckless intent. Under this liability, the defendant acts under the perception of lack of awareness. As much as these offenders are at most of the time considered to be under unjustifiable and substantial risk, they are usually considered to be unaware of the risk. As a matter of fact, negligent crimes are committed even with reasonable people who may not be aware of the impending risks associated with the act. As stated under the Model Penal Code, the negligent person should be aware of the unjustifiable and substantial risks when acting and the possible consequences of their conduct. Therefore, it can be established that the person acting under negligence will be objective rather than subjective.

The case provided regarding Connor and Faatima demonstrates that by Connor throwing a stool at the man who was flirting with Faatima, Connor’s act is a negligent one. For instance, besides knowing the possible risk of throwing the stool at the man, he was not aware of the stool hitting John, who was independent of the existing crisis. As a result, hurting John with the stool demonstrates the consequences of the negligent liability by Connor. The Connor case can be related to the 1997 case involving Scott Walker vs. Tanya Brewster. In the Scott case, the supervisor for their children, Brewster, borrows his step father’s gun and leaves it in the house where the sons he was supposed to supervise were. As a result, one of the boys accidentally fires the handgun and hurts the other in the process. The court, therefore, ruled that Brewster was negligent in the storage of the gun as a supervisor for minors and therefore he was well aware of the risks of leaving the children unsupervised and with a gun.

In consideration of the case for both Connor and Brewster, it can be noted that both defendants may have been aware of the possible risks associated with their acts, but however goes ahead and effects them. However, the two may be unaware of the impending danger to the unsuspecting victims. For instance, Connor was not aware of the stool hitting John and causing the stinging sensation. A reasonable person should be aware of the fact that throwing a stool at such a crowded place as Connor did should also understand that there are higher chances for one getting hurt in the process. Similarly, Brewster did not anticipate the bullet being used by one of the boys to hurt the other. Keeping a gun without ensuring the safety of the children from self-harm is considered a crime since children cannot be expected to act like reasonable people due to their age ad maturity level and therefore the act by Brewster indicates the criminal liability of the defendant.

In consideration of the various liabilities facing both Connor and Faatima, there is a high likelihood of the defendants being acquitted by different defenses. For example, for the negligent liability, it can be observed that Connor could be acquitted with the perception that he acted under a mistake of fact. For instance, his intention was to harm the man who was flirting with Faatima as a means to self-defense. However, since the man ducks, John gets hurt in the process although Connor did not intend to cause harm to John.

Moreover, Connor could be acquitted under the mistake of law for the purposeful and knowing criminal liabilities. For instance, it can be argued that Connor did not know there was any law against throwing items within the zoo at any given time. As a result, he was ignorant of the law in a manner that he ended up throwing a stone at the bird and a lit brochure into the zookeeper’s cabin.

Faatima, on the other hand, can provide defense in such a way that she was exercising self-defense since Connor was acting in an unlawful manner by throwing objects around and it would only be a matter of time before he became bored with her. As a result, she acts in that manner so that she can control the behavior before it develops further to an uncontrollable level.


Conclusively, criminal liability has been used under the legal jurisdiction to refer to the state in which a person takes responsibility for the criminal acts they do. The criminal liabilities can be categorized into primary and secondary liabilities. Furthermore, considering the case provided involving Connor and Faatima at the zoo, it is established that they exhibited four kinds of liabilities: purposely, knowingly, negligent, and recklessly criminal liabilities. Since the criminal acts committed by the two can be related to the previously decided cases, it can be noted that the defenses provided under similar scenarios can apply for both of them. The defenses provided include the mistake of fact, self-defense, and mistake of law.


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July 15, 2023

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