Model Penal Code

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Drafted from 19542 to 1962 by lawyers from the American Law Institute, the Model Penal Code was written in an attempt to bring uniformity and simplicity to the very complex common law doctrine that had evolved in the United States. Since its first publication, the Model Penal Code has provided the basis for legislation in over two-thirds of American states. Many have adopted portions. New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Oregon have enacted most of the provisions.

No state has adopted the Model Penal Code in its entirety.[1]

Introduction to the Model Penal Code

The introduction to the Model Penal Code explains the origins and purposes of the code:

American criminal law is codified in fifty-two criminal codes. The federal

criminal code overlays the codes of each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Under the U.S. Constitution, the power to impose criminal liability is reserved primarily to the states, with federal authority limited to the prohibition and punishment of those unusual crimes specially related to federal interests (such as crimes committed on property of exclusive federal jurisdiction such as military bases, crimes against certain federal officers, and crimes that involve conduct in more than one state that is difficult for a single state to effectively prosecute, such as drug and organized crime offenses). The vast bulk of most crimes and essentially all “street” crimes—homicide, rape, robbery, assault, and theft—fall under jurisdiction of one of the fifty state criminal codes or the code of the District of Columbia. There is much diversity among these fifty-two criminal codes and, therefore, it is often difficult to state “the” American rule on any point of criminal law. But there also are many similarities among the codes, in large part due to the influence of the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code. Promulgated in 1962, the Code prompted a wave of state code reforms in the 1960’s and 1970’s, each influenced to some extent by the Model Code. Some of the Model Penal Code provisions have not been widely accepted. For example, while the Model Penal Code generally rejects the common law’s “felony murder” rule, which in its broadest form holds all killings in the course of a felony to be murder, most states have retained the rule. Similarly, a majority of states have rejected the Model Penal Code’s innovation in prescribing the same punishment for inchoate offenses, such as attempt, and consummated offenses. Nonetheless, the Model Penal Code, more than any other code, is the closest thing to being an American criminal code. The federal criminal code is too unsystematic and incomplete in theory and too irrelevant in practice to function as a national code. Where states have not followed the Model Code, the divergences locate points of controversy that often continue today. And the Code and its proposals have been the intellectual focus

of much American criminal law scholarship since the Code’s promulgation. [2]

Basic Structure of the Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code has three parts: General Provisions, Definition of Specific Crimes, and Treatment & Corrections.


Article 1 - Preliminary

  • 1.01 - Title and Effective Date
  • 1.02 - Purposes; Principles of Construction
  • 1.03 - Territorial Applicability
  • 1.04 - Classes of Crimes; Violations
  • 1.05 - All Offenses Defined by Statute' Application of General Provisions of the Code
  • 1.06 - Time Limitations
  • 1.07 - Method of Prosecution When Conduct Constitutes More Than One Offense
  • 1.08 - When Prosecution Barred by Former Prosecution of the Same Offense
  • 1.09 - When Prosecution Barred by Former Prosecution of Different Offense
  • 1.10 - Former Prosecution in Another Jurisdiction: When A Bar
  • 1.11 - Former Prosecution Before Court Lacking Jurisdiction or When Fraudulently Procured by the Defendant
  • 1.12 - Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; Affiramtive Defenses' Burden of Proving Fact When Not an Element of an Offense; Presumptions
  • 1.13 - General Definitions

Article 2 - General Principles of Liability

  • 2.01 - Requirement of Voluntary Act Ommission as Basis of Liability; Possession as an Act
  • 2.02 - General Requirements of Culpability
  • 2.03 - Causal Relationship Between Conduct and Result; Divergence Between Result Designed or Contemplated and Actual Result or Between Probable and Actual Result.
  • 2.04 - Ignorance or Mistake
  • 2.05 - Culpability Requirements are Inapplicable to Violations and to Offenses Defined By Other Statutes; Effect of Absolute Liability in Reducing Grade of Offense to Violation
  • 2.06 - Liability for Conduct of Another; Complicity
  • 2.07 - Liability of Corporations, Unincorporated Associations and Persons Acting or Under a Duty to Act, in Their Behalf
  • 2.08 - Intoxication
  • 2.09 - Duress
  • 2.10 - Military Orders
  • 2.11 - Consent
  • 2.12 - De Minimus Infractions
  • 2.13 - Entrapment

Article 3 - General Principles of Justification

  • 3.01 - Justification as Affirmative Defense; Civil Remedies Unaffected
  • 3.02 - Justification Generally; Choice of Evils
  • 3.03 - Execution of Public Duty
  • 3.04 - Use of Force in Self-Protection
  • 3.05 - Use of Force for the Protection of Other Persons
  • 3.06 - Use of Force for the Protection of Property
  • 3.07 - Use of Force in Law Enforcement
  • 3.08 - Use of Force by Persons with Special Responsibility for Care, Discipline or Safety of Others
  • 3.09 - Mistake of Law as to Unlawfulness of Force or Legality of Arrest; Reckless or Negligent Use of Otherwise Justifiable Force; Reckless or Negligent Injury or Risk of Injury to Innocent Persons
  • 3.10 - Justification in Property Crimes
  • 3.11 - Definitions

Article 4 - Responsibility

Article 5 - Inchoate Crimes

Article 6 - Authorized Disposition of Offenders

Article 7 - Authority of Court in Sentencing



See Crimes,United States


  1. Idaho briefly enacted the MPC in its entirety in 1971, but it was repealed a year later.
  2. Markus Dirk Dubber and Paul H. Robinson, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE MODEL PENAL CODE Paul H. Robinson