What are The Elements of a Crime?
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In criminal law, all crimes can be broken down into different elements which, in order to convict, must then be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. Most crimes require that three elements be present: a criminal act (actus reus), criminal intent (mens rea), and a concurrence of the previous two elements. Some crimes require a fourth element to be present known as causation.
The 4 Elements of a Crime
1. Criminal Act (Actus Reus)
Actus reus (Latin for guilty act) occurs when any unlawful act or unlawful omission of an act, as required by legal statute, takes place. Words can also be considered acts in criminal law: purgery, verbal threats, conspiracy, or solicitation. Thoughts, on the other hand, are not considered criminal; rather, they contribute to the second element: intent.
For an act to be criminal, it must be voluntary—the defendant must control the action. If a defendant acts on reflex, it does not satisfy the requirement of voluntariness.
2. Criminal intent (Mens Rea)
In order for a criminal act to qualify as a crime, the mental state of the perpetrator must be taken into consideration. The theory of mens rea holds that a defendant can only be held culpable when there is criminal intent.
What is meant by the concept of mens rea, however, varies widely. In 2016, the US Supreme Court issued a decision that backed the American Law Institute’s definition of the term in their Modern Penal Code (MPC). In the MPC, it states that guilt can be contributed to an individual if they have acted purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently.
This element of a crime refers to the coexistence of criminal intent and a criminal act. Without evidence that the mens rea preceded or occurred at the same time as the actus reus, the burden of proof falls short.
Much of the time, this fourth element is present in a criminal case. Causation refers to the relationship between the defendant conduct and the end result. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions were what led to the resulting crime in question, which is typically harm or injury.
Consult an Arizona Criminal Lawyer Today
With these elements in mind, Todd Coolidge looks at all the evidence and personally prepares the best possible case for each client. If you are in search of legal defense for a criminal case, contact Coolidge Law Firm today and receive a free consultation. Don’t let your freedom hang in the balance without the right defense on your side!