Actus Reus: Definition & Examples

Actus Reus: Definition & Examples
Coming up next: Anomie: Definition, Theory & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Defining Actus Reus
  • 0:49 Examples
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Once you complete this lesson, you should have a thorough understanding of what constitutes actus reus. You will review the definition as well as explore several examples.

Defining Actus Reus

Have you ever watched Law and Order and taken note of the suspect getting taken into custody for committing a crime? Well, after that portion of the show, you'll probably recall that the legal issues will take center stage. Sometimes, there is a discussion about whether a crime was committed, and you may have heard the phrase 'actus reus' utilized by the main characters when discussing the case.

When a person commits a crime, there are physical acts that make up elements of the crime. These physical acts, or a failure to act, constitute the actus reus of the crime. In fact, the literal translation of 'actus reus' from the original Latin is 'guilty act.' In order for a person to be charged with a crime, the actus reus of the crime must have occurred. If there is no actus reus, then no crime was committed.

Examples

There are crimes where the actus reus of the crime is the actual crime itself. In other words, all that needs to be demonstrated is that the act occurred, regardless of the defendant having a 'mens rea,' or 'guilty mind.'

One example is where there is a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) statute. Under most DWI statutes, someone with a blood alcohol level of .15% is deemed intoxicated. Thus, to be charged with the crime, the fact that the blood alcohol level attained was .15% is sufficient to satisfy the actus reus; no other consequences of the intoxication must be demonstrated, such as a car accident or harm to another person (though those are obviously crimes in and of themselves).

In contrast, there are crimes where the actus reus of the criminal statute requires that the act caused harm. For example, if a person commits the crime of kidnapping, the person first takes an individual and then detains the individual. This consequence of taking and detaining the individual - like physical injury or psychological trauma - is the additional part of the actus reus that must occur in order for the crime to be committed.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support