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Legal Dictionary

actus reus

Definition of actus reus

Etymology

    Latin - the "guilty act", or loosely, "criminal act"

Noun

actus reus

  1. (law) a physical act that attracts criminal sanctions.

Related terms

Further reading

Actus reus, sometimes called the external element or the objective element of a crime, is the Latin term for the "guilty act" which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the mens rea, "guilty mind", produces criminal liability in the common law-based criminal law jurisdictions of Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, England, Ireland and the United States. In the United States, some crimes also require proof of an attendant circumstance.

Concepts

The terms actus reus and mens rea developed in English Law, are derived from the principle stated by Edward Coke, namely, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means: "an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty"; hence, the general test of guilt is one that requires proof of fault, culpability or blameworthiness both in behaviour and mind.

Further reading

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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