Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What is Mens Rea?

Mens Rea Definition

Mens rea is Latin for "the intending mind."

  • In Criminal Law, mens era is viewed as one of the necessary elements for many crimes.
  • The standard common law test for criminal liability is generally expressed in the Latin phrase: actus reuse non fact rheum nidi mens sit rea.  This means "the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty.
  • In jurisdictions with "due process", there must be an "acts reus" which is a guilty act.  This must be accompanied by some level of mens era in order to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged.  (Also see concurrence)
  • Criminal liability does not attach to a person who merely acted with the absence of mental fault.  (There is an exception in strict liability crimes).
  • It is usually not necessary to prove a subjective mental element in order to establish liability for breach of contract or tort issues.  
  • However, if there is a tort that is committed intentionally or a contract that is breached intentionally, the intent may increase the scope of liability as well as the measure of damages that are payable to a plaintiff in the case.

  1. actus reus: unlawful killing of a human being;
  2. mens rea: malice aforethought.


The analysis is somewhat different.
Homicide is a "results" crime.  This means that it forbids any "intentional" or "knowing" conduct that results in the death of another human being. 
"Intentional" in the modern sense means the actor possessed a "purpose" or "desire" that his or her objective (i.e. death of another human being) be achieved. "Knowing" means that the actor was aware or pretty much certain that the death would occur as a result. 
Thus, the actus reus and mens rea of homicide in a modern criminal statute can be considered as follows:
  1. actus reus: any conduct resulting in the death of another individual;
  2. mens rea: intent or knowledge that the conduct would result in the death.

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