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Legal Dictionary

mens rea

Legal Definition of mens rea

Etymology

    Latin Origin

Etymology

    Latin origin

Noun

  1. "Guilty mind." Many serious crimes require the proof of "mens rea" before a person can be convicted. In other words, the prosecution must prove not only that the accused committed the offence but that he (or she) did it knowing that it was prohibited; that their act (or omission) was done with an intent to commit a crime.

Definition of mens rea

Etymology

    directly from the Latin

Noun

mens rea

  1. (law) a guilty mind, a conscious knowing by the perpetrator that the act s/he committed was illicit

Anagrams

  • Alphagram: aeemnrs
  • renames

Further reading

In criminal law, mens rea - the Latin term for "guilty mind" - is usually one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means that "the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind be also guilty". Thus, in jurisdictions with due process, there must be an actus reus accompanied by some level of mens rea to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged (see the technical requirement of concurrence). The Criminal Law does not usually apply to a person who has acted with the absence of mental fault; this is the general rule.

The exception is strict liability crimes (in the civil law, it is not usually necessary to prove a subjective mental element to establish liability, say for breach of contract or a tort, although if intentionally committed, this may increase the measure of damages payable to compensate the plaintiff as well as the scope of liability).

Quite simply therefore mens rea refers to the mental element of the offence that accompanies the actus reus. In some jurisdictions the terms mens rea and actus reus have been superseded by alternative terminology. In Australia for example the elements of all federal offences are now designated as "fault elements" (mens rea) and "physical element" (actus reus). This terminology was adopted in order to replace the obscurity of the Latin

terms with simple and accurate phrasing.

Further reading

References:

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



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