February 19, 2016

U.S. v. Berrigan | Case Brief - 482 F.2d 171 (3d Cir. 1973) - US Third Circuit

FACTS: Berrigan had smuggled letters into and out of a prison through a courier, believing the warden was ignorant of what was going on.  In fact the warden had prior knowledge of the arrangement and had agreed to let the courier pretend cooperation in the plan.

ISSUE: Was there a crime even when the act was performed?

HOLDING: No

RATIONALE: Factual impossibility is said to occur when extraneous circumstances unknown to the actor or beyond his control prevent consummation of the intended crime.

Legal impossibility is said to occur where the intended acts would not amount to a crime.  Circumstances where:

1) the motive, desire and expectation is to perform an act in violation of the law

2) there is intention to perform a physical act

3) there is a performance of the intended physical act

4) the consequence resulting from the intended act does not amount to a crime

Here is their 3rd situation where the intended act was performed but unknown to the sender the transmittal was accomplished with the knowledge and consent of the warden.  Thus the government failed to prove the necessary "circumstances or attendant circumstances."