Mens Rea: Definition, Types, Requirement & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Mens Rea?
  • 1:12 Types of Mens Rea
  • 1:59 Requirements & Examples
  • 2:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Johnathon Sharp
This lesson will look at mens rea, including how it is defined, its place in the legal system, and the differing aspects surrounding it and its use. The types of mens rea and how they are used within the criminal justice field will be covered in this lesson.

What Is Mens Rea?

Have you ever wondered why a suspect is charged with one crime and not another? Or, have you thought about what type of mindset a person might have when they commit or carry out a crime? This lesson on mens rea will help to clarify both of these questions and other aspects related to this topic.

Mens rea can be defined as a person's mindset while they carried out an action. In the field of criminal justice, this term is referred to when someone commits a crime. Other short definitions of mens rea include 'the guilty mind' or 'the intending mind.' This is important in both legal proceedings and when charging an individual with a crime, because the suspect's mens rea can affect the type or severity of the crime they are charged with.

When individuals are charged with the commission of a crime, there are two parts that are taken into consideration. First, the actual physical act of the crime, this is also known as actus reus. Second, the criminal or suspect's mentality is also taken into account, the mens rea. This mental aspect helps us to understand not only the why, but also the meanings behind an act and how this may have affected the person who carried it out.

Types of Mens Rea

Although our legal systems vary on their definitions of mens rea, generally there is a consensus on a few accepted types of mens rea. These types of mens rea are sometimes referred to as culpable mental states. The culpable states include purposely, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. Each of these can be explained as follows:

  • Purposely would mean the person consciously created the intent for criminal actions
  • Knowingly is when the person is aware that their actions create or can create a certain outcome due to their actions
  • Recklessly would be where the person consciously disregards the fact their actions are creating unreasonable danger
  • Negligently is when the person should have known within reason their actions would cause some type of danger or hazard

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