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Mens Rea

by: Cheleca Meredith

Mens Rea CJ 1330

Cheleca Meredith

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Notes just cover the cases associated with mens rea.
Introduction to Criminal Law
Professor Kevan F. Jacobson
Class Notes
Criminal Law
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Cheleca Meredith on Wednesday January 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to CJ 1330 at Southern Utah University taught by Professor Kevan F. Jacobson in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 35 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Criminal Law in OTHER at Southern Utah University.


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Date Created: 01/20/16
Mens Rea and State of Mind Other States of Mind MPC Recklessness  When a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that an element of the crime exists or will result from his conduct.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.  Gross:   Immediately obvious; glaringly noticeable, usually because of inexcusable badness.  The heart of the matter:  A reckless person knows she is creating a high risk that harm will result, but still chooses to act. 1. Subjective:  She personally knows there is risk ­ she is aware of the risks. 2. Objective:  Her disregard of the risk represents a glaringly obvious (gross) departure from what ordinary people would do.  The heart of the matter:  The person should know the risks exist, but does not.  Objective standard.  He should know, because a reasonable person would know. Koppersmith v. State (Ala. App 1999)  Illustrates the fundamental distinction between recklessness and negligence.  Reckless:  Aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk and conscious disregard of the risk.  Negligence:  Unaware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk, but should have been.  NOTE:  Same risk under both states of mind. Other States of Mind Simple Negligence  Liability for some crimes may be based on simple negligence, that is, failing to act as a reasonable person would act under the circumstances.  Simple negligence is a lesser standard than criminal negligence (the MPC standard.)  Example:  Utah Automobile Homicide ­ A third degree felony, if the person operates a moving motor vehicle in a negligent manner while using a handheld wireless communication device and causes the death of another person.  “Negligent" means simple negligence, the failure to exercise that degree of care that reasonable and prudent persons exercise under like or similar circumstances.” Other States of Mind Strict Liability  Another manifestation of mala prohibita.  Another manifestation of general intent.         ­ The intent to accomplish the criminal act itself is enough.             ­ No more than a decision to do the act. Causation Factual Cause  The “But For” test:  But for the actions of the defendant, the result would not have occurred.  Example:   A man digs a deep pit hidden on public land.   3 years later, a child stumbles, falls in, and dies.   The child would not ­ indeed could not ­ have fallen in but for the fact (unless) the man had dug the pit. Legal or Proximate Cause  Proximate cause:  A legal or policy judgement that it is fair to attribute a result to an act.  Example:  The man digs a shallow pit hidden on public land.  2 years later, a sink hole opens in the area, dropping the bottom out of the pit.  A year later, a child stumbles, falls into the pit, and dies in a fall into the sinkhole.  Is it fair to hold the man criminally liable?  Legal or Proximate Cause  A key question:  Is it reasonably foreseeable that the result will stem from the acts in issue?    People v. Armitage (Ca. App. 1987) Zach Nelson Drunken tomfoolery on a boat…..  Proximate Cause: A cause which, in natural and continuous sequence, produces the result and without which the result would not have occurred.  If an intervening cause is a normal and foreseeable result of the act, the intervening cause is dependent - not superseding - and does not relieve liability. People v. Kibbe (N.Y. 1974) Lisa Perlin  Harm is foreseeable when it is reasonably related to a criminal act.  The death of a robbery victim whom perpetrators partially stripped of his clothing and left him in the lanes of an active public highway where he was struck and killed by another driver was a foreseeable result of the perpetrators actions. They were the proximate cause of the death. Ignorance and Mistake And Mens rea  Ignorance or mistake of fact or law may prevent/defeat/negate the formation of mens rea.  Example: Taking a text book which you mistakenly thought was yours from the library would not be larceny. You had no specific intent - no intent to permanently deprive the book’s owner of the text. State v. Sexton (N.J. 1999) Cressly Perez More tomflery with an “unloaded” firearm….  State v. Sexton (N.J. 1999)  Whether Sexton was reasonably mistaken that the gun was not loaded was relevant in determining if he was reckless: if he consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk.  State was required to proof recklessness beyond a reasonable doubt and Sexton’s alleged mistake was relevant to that proof.


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