Saturday, December 12, 2015

Why Criminal Intent Should be Part of Justice Reform

...While half of a criminal violation is someone committing a bad act (“actus reus”), the other half is (or at least traditionally was, and ought to be) that person acting with a bad intent (“mens rea”). It is the latter half of this equation, and only the latter half, that ultimately protects from punishment those accused of crimes they did not know they were committing because they reasonably did not know that what they were doing was wrong.

With nearly 5,000 federal criminal laws and over (likely well over) 300,000 federal regulations with criminal penalties, it is easy to see how anyone could end up being a criminal without knowing it. Only adequate mens rea standards prevent that from happening.


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