What is the Model Penal Code?

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What is the Model Penal Code?


What is the model penal code? Established in 1962, the model penal code (MPC) is a set of guidelines for states to follow when deciding how to correct criminal behavior. It helps by creating a baseline in criminal law. 

The model penal code covers penalties for specific crimes and how those should be charged. 

Consistency is important in law. The model penal code helps maintain this consistency from courtroom to courtroom across the U.S. Each state has its own criminal code, however, the MPC greatly informs the laws of each state’s code. 

When judges are determining how to sentence a criminal, they will use these guidelines as a construct for where to begin. The same is true for defense attorneys, prosecutors, and lawyers. They use the MPC when formulating a defense for their clients. 

Parole and probation are taken into account in the MPC as well. It also includes the varying degrees of infraction for specific crimes. Prosecutors use this to figure out whether or not an individual has actually acted in a criminal way. 


The model penal code has language to help states call the shots. 

Prosecutors lean on this when determining the responsibility of someone who has committed a crime. They need to know what level of incumbency they can prove. Judges need to know what’s considered ethical and standard when making a ruling. 

Culpability level for a crime is also taken into account in the model penal code. 

The levels of culpability from most to least:

  • Purposely
  • Knowingly
  • Recklessly
  • Negligently

More severe sentences are dealt to those who have more culpability; in other words, for those who had more intention of committing a crime.

While no state’s penal code is completely and solely informed by the MPC, it still has an important role to play. It covers topics from preliminary proceedings and general principles of liability & justification, to the authority of the court in sentencing. 


Contact Todd Coolidge 

If you find yourself facing criminal charges from a DUI, domestic violence, traffic offense, or felony, you need an experienced and successful attorney. Todd Coolidge serves the metro Phoenix area, including the entire state of Arizona. Contact us to have a strong defense on your side.


Photo by Woody Hibbard / CC BY