At the present time the Kentucky Commission on Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention and the Legislative Research Commission are jointly engaged in a project designed to revise the state's substantive criminal law. This effort is justifiable only if the existing law is defective and the "revision will result in significant improvement in [criminal law] administration." A cursory examination of the criminal statutes, with no reference to case law, leaves not the slightest doubt as to the need for revision. Until now no major attempt at revision has ever been undertaken in this state. As a consequence, the statutes are devoid of organization, haphazard in their coverage, with overlaps in some areas and gaps in others, and totally lacking in unifying ideas. For most of the major offenses, such as robbery, murder and manslaughter, the statutes do no more than establish sanctions. The difficult task of defining the crimes is left to the judiciary. With respect to the important general doctrines of criminal law, such as mens rea, causation, intoxication, complicity, and justification, the statutes hardly make mention. As a consequence of the combined effect of these deficiencies, the statutes are nearly impossible to comprehend and literally engulfed with uncertainty of application. In addition, and perhaps more significantly, the possibility of inequitable treatment among offenders engaging in similar conduct with similar mental states exists in almost every major classification of offense.
The task of revision must begin with a statement of existing principles and an identification and analysis of their deficiencies. It is toward this end that this article is directed. The selection of homicide and assault (bodily injury offenses) as subject matter is not solely, or even principally, because of the importance of these offenses to criminal jurisprudence. Rather it is because this subject matter, better than any other, serves to demonstrate vividly all of the following: (1) The evils that result from a piecemeal, patchwork enactment of criminal laws; (2) the need to eliminate obsolete offenses and useless distinctions that serve no purpose in separating criminal from non-criminal behavior; (3) the need to provide clarity and understanding to common law principles through codification; and (4) the advantages to the bench, bar and to society of a cohesive, well-defined code that describes criminal offenses by use of principles having broad, general application.
Response or Comment
Robert G. Lawson, Special Comment, Criminal Law Revision in Kentucky: Part I—Homicide and Assault, 58 Ky. L.J. 242 (1970).