Actus Reas and Men Rea

Actus Reus and Mens Rea Actus reus and mens rea are two of the five elements of a crime that the prosecution may have to prove to get a conviction in a criminal case. Actus reus is the criminal act. Mens rea is the intent to commit the crime. In general, the more serious a crime is, the more important it is for the prosecution to prove that both a criminal act was committed and that there was criminal intent. These more serious crimes are also known as conduct crimes. Not surprisingly, conduct crimes involve the proof of criminal conduct. Criminal conduct is often confused with criminal acts.

The distinction is that criminal conduct involves both actus reus and mens rea, whereas a criminal act only involves actus reus. In the most severe of crimes, such as criminal homicide, three more elements of crime must be proven: concurrence, attendant circumstances and a bad result. Actus reus and mens rea are important because both elements are necessary to get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case (Samaha, 2008, chap. 3). In order to qualify as actus reus, the act must be deemed a bodily movement that was voluntary.

The reason for this is that the law is intended to punish people who meant to commit the act or can be blamed for the act. Only then are they responsible for the criminal acts they commit. Criminal law does not intend to punish people who are not responsible for the acts they committed. The problem is that most criminal codes provide vague descriptions of what a voluntary act is. Many times, the definition needs to be inferred by looking at the list of exceptions (involuntary acts) to voluntary acts. An appeal in case of Brown v.

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Objective fault does not involve a purposeful or conscious bad mind. Objective fault involves establishing that the act should have been known to be wrong by the average person. In the appeal of the case of State v. Stark, the defendant, Calvin Stark, challenged a second degree assault conviction on the grounds that he did not intend to inflict bodily harm by having unprotected sex after he was knowingly HIV positive. Mr. Starks’ appeal was on the grounds that subjective fault could not be established for the crime he was alleged to have committed.

Mr. Starks lost the appeal in large part because objective fault was undeniably present in this case since the average person knows that HIV can be passed to another person by having unprotected sex (Samaha, 2008, chap. 4). Good Samaritan Rule and American Bystander Rule The Good Samaritan Rule and the American Bystander Rule both address the requirements of what a person has to do if they are witnessing and incident where a situation requires assistance. There are really no other similarities between these rules.

The Good Samaritan Rule is only used in a few jurisdictions. This rule makes a person legally responsible to either help or call for help when a person is in need. In contrast, the American Bystander Rule states that there is no legal duty to help someone in need, even if it the bystander is risking nothing by helping someone or calling for help. Even in cases where it is clearly morally wrong to stand by and watch someone suffer, the bystander is not violating any criminal law by doing nothing (Samaha, 2008, p. 91). In the case of Commonwealth v.

Pestinakas, the defendants, Helen and Walter Pestinakas were convicted of third degree murder in Pennsylvania for neglecting to care for an elderly man who was terminally ill. In the appeal to this case, the judgments of sentence (five to ten years in prison for each defendant) were upheld because the court ruled that there was a legally binding oral contract in place for the Pestinakases to provide care for the victim, Joseph Kly. The Good Samaritan Rule does not apply in Pennsylvania and the American Bystander Rule does apply.

The dissenting opinion was interesting in that it was pointed out that the legislature may not have intended for a contractual duty to be a duty imposed by law. If indeed that were not the intent of the legislature, then the Pestinakases may very well have won their appeal based on the American Bystander Rule. Although neglecting an elderly man while serving as his caretaker is probably morally wrong in the eyes of most, the American Bystander Rule would have protected the Pestinakases from legal prosecution (Samaha, 2008, p. 92-93). In the case of State v.

Kuntz, the defendant, Bonnie Kuntz stabbed her boyfriend, Warren Becker, and then did not call for help, so he bled to death. In addition to being convicted of negligent homicide, the defendant was also charged with a separate crime for failure to summon for medical aid. Ms. Kuntz appealed the latter conviction with the American Bystander Rule as her basis. There are some exceptions to the American Bystander Rule that do make a bystander criminally liable for a failure to act. In the opinion of the court, this case met one of those exceptions, since Ms.

Kuntz had a duty to summon for help because she created the peril. In other words, if you mortally wound someone, you are criminally liable if you don’t summon for aid, notwithstanding the American Bystander Rule (http://www. soc. umn. edu). The Good Samaritan Rule is also not always so “cut and dry”. Although the rule requires that you help someone in need or summon for help, but a recent ruling, Van Horn v. Watson, held that a state statute only protects people who attempt to provide medical care to someone who needs it.

In Van Horn v. Watson, court held that the co-defendant, Lisa Torti was held liable for rendering the defendant, Alexandra Van Horn, paraplegic after pulling Van Horn from a vehicle that Torti thought was going to explode (Miller, 2009). Although this was not a criminal case, this shows that the Good Samaritan Rule does not provide protection against every scenario of helping a victim in need, just as the American Bystander Rule does not the bystander from needing to help or summon for help for a person in need.

Although the rules seem to be opposites, each has exceptions that make them more similar. Constructive and Actual Possession Constructive possession is when someone has control of a banned substance, but it is not on his/her person. In other words, it may be in or on something he/she owns, such as a vehicle, a place they live, such as their house, or another area he/she controls, such as his/her office. Actual possession is when someone has physical control of the banned substance. In other words in might be in their shoe.

Constructive and active possession both need to meet the two aspects of possession. In order to constitute possession as a criminal act, there needs to be both control of the items and awareness of the control. The main difference between constructive and active possession is that with active possession, the substance is found on the person, whereas with constructive possession, the substance is found in an area in which the person is responsible (Samaha, 2008, p. 97). The case of Miller v.

State provides a good discussion in the court’s opinion on constructive possession. In that case, a passenger in a car was convicted of possession of marijuana and cocaine. The defendant, James Luther Miller, appealed the case on the grounds that he did not knowingly possess the drugs. Other passengers in the car were smoking marijuana and they had crack cocaine stashed in the car. In the appeal, the court affirmed the marijuana possession conviction and reversed and dismissed the cocaine possession conviction.

According to the court opinion, in order to constitute constructive possession in a case involving multiple occupants in an automobile, there are several things that need to be considered. These factors include whether the drugs were in plain view of the accused, whether they were found on the accused, whether they were in close proximity to the accused, whether the accused is the owner of the car and whether the accused acted suspiciously.

In this case, many of these factors were probably true in the case of the marijuana, but none of them were definitively true in the case of the cocaine. In the case of the cocaine, the court found that Mr. Miller did not have knowing possession of the cocaine and instead had mere possession. Only Montana and Washington do not require knowing possession to charge someone with criminal possession. Since this case was in Arkansas, the appeal was successful for Mr.

Miller on the cocaine possession charge (Samaha, 2008, pp. 97-98). References Did she have a legal duty to report or intervene? Retrieved from http://www. soc. umn. edu/~samaha/cases/state_v_kuntz_omission. htm. Miller, C. (2009, January 14). Calif. lawmakers rush to rescue good samaritans in wake of court ruling. The Recorder. Retrieved from http://www. law. com/jsp/article. jsp? id=1202427434865&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1. Samaha, J. (2008). Criminal Law. (9th ed. , chap. 3-4). Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning, Inc.

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