Presentation on theme: "UNIT 3 MENS REA – E.G. GUILTY MIND. DISCUSSION BOARD WRAP-UP Sally Sleeper: Again, as with last week, we can look to last night's seminar for the best."— Presentation transcript:
UNIT 3 MENS REA – E.G. GUILTY MIND
DISCUSSION BOARD WRAP-UP Sally Sleeper: Again, as with last week, we can look to last night's seminar for the best re-cap of this Discussion Board topic. Since under the law, the act of taking the drug and then driving, despite being warned not to, is the "actus reus" need to charge Sally with a crime, we would have to prove that Sally was acting involuntarily for reasons other than her voluntary taking of the drug. For example, we could prove that Sally suffered a heart attack or a seizure or had narcolepsy - anything to show the Ambien was not the cause of her accident would do the trick in this case. We might also prove that in fact Sally was never warned by her doctor of the side effects of Ambien and that the package contained no warnings - or that Sally didn't know how to read or understand her doctor's language - something to show that Sally was not driving despite knowing the risks of Ambien.
DB WRAP UP Assistance Required? Most of us believe that people should help others in need of emergency assistance, but some of us believe this should be voluntary and not mandated by law. Thanks for the many good postings on actus reus as it relates to the failure to act - to care for a child, for example. Of course, when children are involved, there are many people who are required to act - police officers, teachers, hospital personnel and so forth. But what about the average citizen who is driving down the street and sees a child crying and holding his arm. Should the citizen be required by law to stop and help the child? What about the bar owner who nearly every night has someone asking to borrow the phone or get a glass of water for someone who is injured or was in a fight on the street? Should we require the bar owner to help? Where do we draw the line? What if we pass a law that requires everyone to assist people in public areas who "appear injured"? Would it help more people than it would hurt? Does it depend on the area one is in? For many of you who believe there should not be a law mandating that we assist those in need, these types of questions posed real problems. What if the person is just pretending to be in trouble and really wants to rob the helper? The law tries to reward good and deter bad behavior but we can see with these examples how even well-intentioned laws that encourage good behavior can have negative and unintended consequences.
This unit introduces you to the concept of Mens Rea, or “Guilty Mind." Mens Rea refers to the mental state that is required in order for a crime to be committed. Many people are surprised to learn that criminal law often does not care whether you knew you were doing something wrong, and you can be prosecuted even if you’re a good and otherwise honest person. However, when the law does care, the process by which your thoughts are examined is called Mens Rea. Criminal Law: Examples & Explanations Review Chapter 4. As you read, bear in mind that there are two different systems in place for determining mens rea. First, there is the traditional system, and then there is the Model Penal Code. When talking about mens rea, we are always trying to figure out the difficult task of determining what the defendant was thinking around the time that he or she committed the actus reus. Determining a person’s mental state can be one of the most complex concepts in criminal law. You might wish to take notes or read this chapter a second time, and be certain to ask your instructor if you have any questions.
Mens Rea Mens Rea, or “guilty mind," is the concept that we use when evaluating a criminal defendant’s state of mind. “Traditional” mens rea is the ancient tradition of determining whether a defendant had a “vicious will." Early legal scholars recognized that it is wrong to punish someone unless he or she was in some way a “bad” person deserving of such punishment. However, in recent years, American jurisprudence has adopted “statutory mens rea," which is broader and will allow prosecution if someone acted with intent in committing a crime, even if that person is of good character and intended no harm. Every crime requires a certain level of Mens Rea before a person can be found guilty. There are traditionally three kinds of Mens Rea (although criminal negligence is often referred to as a fourth kind of Mens Rea). Intent: Intent can be transferred (you intend to shoot person A but actually shoot person B. You can be prosecuted for the murder of person B even though you never intended to kill him). Intent can be oblique. (you intend to only harm someone but accidentally kill him—this can be prosecuted as murder)
Knowledge/willful Reckless: You don’t intend to kill anyone, but you drive too fast and kill him accidentally. Criminal negligence is considered under the Model Penal Code to be a fourth kind of Mens Rea. Criminal negligence occurs when you have no intent, no knowledge, and are not reckless; yet you are guilty of a crime because you were careless. You might be found criminally negligent if you left a child alone for a few minutes at home, and he fell and died. You did not intend to kill the child. You did not have knowledge that the child would die. You were not reckless. However, you were negligent. We can never prove Mens Rea because we can never prove what was going through a person’s mind. However, we can infer Mens Rea by the circumstances. In other words, if a person has a motive to kill, we can use that motive to infer that he intended to kill. Proving Mens Rea is important to the State because many crimes require a Mens Rea element, and the prosecution has to prove, either directly or by inference, that the defendant violated every element of the crime before he or she can be found guilty. The Model Penal Code has a different system for analyzing intent. It provides four levels of culpability—(1) purposely, (2) knowingly, (3) recklessly, and (4) criminally negligently.
DISCUSSION BOARD Discussion Board Read the Supreme Court opinion linked for you on the DB page. Pay attention to the discussion of mens rea and actus reus. Prepare to discuss any questions you have about the court’s opinion during Seminar. DISCUSS – STATUTORY INTERPRETATION What is the “plain meaning” of the statute – “carjacking w/ intent to kill or cause great bodily harm”? What is the legislative history of the statute? What is the elemental approach to statutory construction and how is the statute interpretated in that light?
SEMINAR Does it matter whether a person knows or wants to do something evil when he or she commits a crime? Before you studied the law, you might have assumed that only “bad” people commit crimes and go to jail. But how many crimes have you committed in the last week? Have you exceeded the speed limit? Have you jaywalked? Have you changed lanes without signaling? What kind of mental state is required for a person to be found guilty of a crime? For this week's Seminar prepare a confession for us by listing at least a few crimes (let’s make that violations – e.g. parking tickets, turning right on a red light, not disclosing income on taxes – some things you have done may not be crimes or violations but are “on the edge” so to speak... )that you’ve committed. For each one, be prepared to tell us your mental state, such as, “I knew I was speeding but I was late for work” or “I never even saw the red light and had no idea I ran it.” Let’s look at the news headlines and assess mens rea: Sandusky, Clemons, John Edwards. Let’s go over the examples and explanations in the book "See" you in Seminar!