Your Guide To Understanding Criminal Law
This collection of criminal law podcasts has become a handy legal guide to understanding criminal law. Not sure where to start? Try here:
The Most Popular Topics
The Index & Checklist
CLE For Illinois Lawyers
What Is Criminal Causation?
Generally, when a crime requires both an act by defendant and a specified result of that act, the defendant’s act must be both the “cause in fact” of the result and the “proximate” or “legal” cause of the result.
This is a fundalmental question asking if the person’s actions can be tied to the harmful event. For example in drug-induced homicide case a jury will be instructed that…
“In order for you to find that the acts of the defendant caused the death of [the victim] the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant’s acts were a contributing cause of the death and that the death did not result from a cause unconnected with the defendant. However, it is not necessary that you find the acts of the defendant were the sole and immediate cause of death.”Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 7.15 – See Episode 541 (Duration 26:58)
What Is Criminal Proximate Cause?
People v. Mumaugh, 2018 IL App (3d) 140961 (January). Episode 453 (Duration 16:35) (Defendant’s Perfect Driving Was Not The Proximate Cause Of The Accident)
Once the prosecution has established that a defendant’s act was the cause in fact of a prohibited result the state must then establish the “proximate” or “legal” cause.
The relevant inquiry is whether the injury is of a type that a reasonable person would see as a likely result of his or her conduct. In proximate cause disputes, Illinois courts draw a distinction between a condition and a cause.
There are some situations that a defendant may have factually caused, but the law is loath to apply blame because of the “randomness” of a result.
The test that should be applied in all proximate cause cases is whether the wrongdoer reasonably might have anticipated the intervening result would transpire after their own action.
The dispositive question is whether a defendant reasonably might have anticipated the harmful result as a natural and probable result of the his own actions i.e., whether the injury was of a type that a reasonable person would see as a likely result of his or her conduct.
At its core, criminal accountability is the legal liability one is exposed to when they accused of a crime. Legal liability itself is just the idea that you can be punished for committing prohibited conduct.
It’s obvious a person can be accountable for their own actions. Things get tricky when we begin to hold a person criminally accountable for another person’s actions.
Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
Go to People v. Downs, 2015 IL 117934 (June). Episode 080 (Duration 9:55) (Illinois Supreme Court says stop defining the term beyond a reasonable doubt for the jury.)
Once a person finds him or herself accused of a crime. We all know the state has to prove their case with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Other state courts and the federal court system all provide their juries with a definition of the proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
We don’t do that in Illinois.
The idea is that the term speaks for itself.
Any attempt to further define it will itself lead to confusion and error. We want the jury to wrestle with the term as part of their deliberation process.