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Mens Rea and State Crimes

White Paper
By John S. Baker, Jr.
September 04, 2012

Mens Rea and State CrimesThe public understanding of what is and is not a crime has eroded over time. The common law was clear: a crime requires the union of a prohibited act or actus reus and a guilty mind or mens rea. Increasingly, however, "strict liability" offenses requiring no proof of a mens rea are becoming more common. This article briefly reviews this development and proposals for addressing the trend at the state level.