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The World Law Dictionary Project

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e.g. principle, consideration, jurisdiction
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mens rea noun


the mental state required, together with actus reus to be guilty of committing crime; guilty mind (=the criminal wanted to commit the crime); criminal intent; intention
Although it was established that the defendant caused the accident, he did not possess the requisite mens rea for the offence and was therefore acquitted.

Hello, I'm Robin from TransLegal and this is the lesson of the week.

Today we're going to talk about the area of criminal law in which we see two important Latin terms. Actus reus which refers to the criminal act or the wrongful act, which must be proven to convict and accuse a person of a crime, and mens rea, which is the mental state or state of mind needed to commit a crime.

Now many crimes require a specific mental intent on the part of the wrong doer. And examples of these different kinds of required mens rea are knowledge, wilfulness, maliciousness, scienter, recklessness or negligence. So these describe the states of mind which are needed in order to prove certain crimes.

Now for instance, for murder in the second degree, the statute in New York requires that a person has intent to cause the death of another person and in fact causes the death of another person and this constitutes murder in the second degree.

Now intent, that is the mens rea. Causing the death of another person, that is the act or the actus reus. But when we change the mens rea from intent to recklessness, even though we keep the same actus reus which is causing the death of another person, it gives us a different crime and that is the crime of manslaughter.

Now there are another group of crimes called strict liability crimes which do not require any mens rea in order to constitute an offence. That means that you can be found guilty for merely committing the act. Now a typical example of a strict liability crime is drunk driving. A drunk driver can be convicted and punished whatever was or wasn't on his or her mind. The only thing that must be proved is the actus reus, that you were driving a car while you were under the influence of alcohol.

Now that's all for today. We would be very happy if you would leave some comments in the box below but only if your mens rea is not wilful, malicious, reckless or negligent. We would like you to have an intentional or a knowledgeable mens rea before you leave us a comment. Thank you.

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