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Law School Case Brief

People v. Newton - 340 N.Y.S.2d 77 (1973)


According to New York Law, the minimal requirement for criminal liability is the performance by a person of conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act which he is physically capable of performing. The doing of an act may be made criminal by statute  without regard to the doer's intent or knowledge, but an involuntary action is not criminal. 


A man was on board a plane bound from the Bahamas to Luxembourg when the captain diverted the plant to New York because he thought this passenger might have a concealed weapon. At the airport, the passenger admitted he was carrying a gun. He was arrested and charged with violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 265.05(2) after he admitted he had no license to possess or carry the gun. Petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of New York.


Should the writ of habeas corpus be granted?




The court ordered that petitioner be discharged from custody. Petitioner did not subject himself to criminal liability by virtue of a voluntary act. The flight was not scheduled to terminate or pass through the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. and the landing in New York was an interruption of flight not attributable to a voluntary action by petitioner. The court was not willing to create jurisdiction where none existed.

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