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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Criminal Law and Mens Rea: Explained!


In criminal offenses, generally, the state needs to prove the requisite mens rea (state of mind) to establish guilt. While the common law has a confusing amount of different requirements of mens rea for a crime (e.g., "malice aforethough" or "reckless disregard"), we will not cover those, because we have lives, and don't want to needlessly waste time on useless things like that. In contrast to the common law concepts of mens rea are the Model Penal Code's 5 levels of mens rea. Today, we will be talking about the Model Penal Code (which nearly every state has adopted some form of), and the different levels of mens rea requisite for every crime.

Five levels of mens rea:
1. Purposely:
A person acts purposely with respect to a material element of an offense when:
(i) if the element involves the nature of his conduct or a result thereof, it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result; and
(ii) if the element involves the attendant circumstances, he is aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes or hopes that they exist.

2. Knowingly:
A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:
(i) if the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and
(ii) if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.

3. Recklessly:
A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor's situation.

4. Negligently:
A person acts negligently with respect to a material element of an offense when he should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor's failure to perceive it, considering the nature and purpose of his conduct and the circumstances known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation.

5. Strict Liability:
No mens rea needed. If you commit the crime, you do the time. This means if you go to a 21+ club where they check identification at the door, see a girl buy a drink, and even check the girls identification prior to your night of shenanigans with her, you can still be charged with statutory rape if it turns out she was 15, and used a fake id. Drunk driving is another example of a strict liability offense: if you drive drunk, and get caught, it doesn't matter what you were thinking.
The justification for this is hard to exactly pinpoint, but it seems that there are certain crimes that legislators have deemed highly dangerous, and want to prohibit at whatever cost.
 
Actually, it matters how young she is.
Prove your lawyering ability, describe the difference between negligently and recklessly!

36 comments:

  1. Hrm... It seems like recklessness is defined as active, negligence as passive. Is that about right?

    http://tinyurl.com/6c56er2

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  2. negligently is someone doing something without thinking its bad while recklessly is doing something you know is bad and doing it to the extreme?

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  3. Intressting blog! Following you fore sure!

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  4. I promised myself I would keep up with this blog more often, but I sort of failed in that aspect. I'll definitely keep up from now on, the information you put down is genuinely valuable.

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  5. Awesome. We just started learning about actus rea and mens rea in my Gr.12 law class.

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  6. This is great info to have. You are very very knowledgable.

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  7. Negligently has 2xG in it while recklessly has 2xS

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  8. Wow, that is such BS on strict liability, lying chicks will end my life.

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  9. Great info dude. I never knew there were levels of this.. I always wondered how they "legalized" this exact shit. Thanks.

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  10. I never knew what a lot of this meant, thanks for clearing it up.

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  11. wow man strict liability, cant play stupid out of that one lol

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  12. I've heard the term used constantly but never actually knew what it meant. Thanks!

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  13. a lawyer who isn't afraid to use his fists.

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  14. Judging from all this it seems I am guilty of gross negligence at many points in my life lol

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  15. Mens rea was something i always struggled with

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  16. Great blog, I don't actually don't have any law knowledge yet I've always found it interesting so I thank you for posting this!

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  17. Wow this is now saved to my compy i never knew this before. Jeez so many things about the legal system i am clueless on.

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  18. From what I read it seems to me that recklessness is knowing you're actions might cause someone harm but consciously ignoring them, as opposed negligence where someone might not know that these were the consequences of their actions.

    It also seems to me that recklessness is something attributed to someone that is trained to see the consequences of their actions, like a construction worker; whereas negligences would be attributed to someone that isn't trained and therefore might not see the consequences of their actions, like someone's uncle or dad.

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  19. lol i found this very interesting...im taking a tort/contract law class

    im not a paralegal but thought it would help me become an accountant, since it was business law...so much for that. it's an interesting class though

    are you sure that drunk driving is strict liability?

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  20. lol quite funny and interesting indeed...i consider myself negligent most of the time!

    http://skybluetrading.blogspot.com/

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  21. Thanks! Are you in school for law? If so, what degree?

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  22. Wow... I didn't know a whole lot of these things. That means that any underaged girl can seriously pawn an adult. Even if lying...

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  23. interesting, your examples explain it better than the original law texts do

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  24. Great stuff, still dont fully get it haha

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  25. Thats why you never flirt with underage girls.

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