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Understanding “mens rea”

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Many factors can determine what happens to someone who is charged with committing a criminal offense. One of these is the defendant’s mental state at the time the crime was committed. The concept that is typically called into question is known as “mens rea.” This is a Latin term that means “guilty mind.”

Mens rea is used to determine whether a person meant to commit a crime or not. In many cases, a person who didn’t mean to commit a crime won’t be convicted, but that’s not always the case if the person knew that what they were doing could lead to criminal charges.

How does mens rea affect criminal cases?

It’s possible that someone was simply negligent but did not intend to commit a criminal offense. For example, a person may crash into another vehicle because they couldn’t stop in time to avoid a collision. However, that doesn’t mean they committed a crime. If they were driving drunk and crashed into another vehicle, on the other hand, that’s a criminal act. Something that’s simple negligence might result in someone filing a lawsuit against them in civil court, but it likely won’t end with criminal charges.

Criminal codes determine whether there must be knowledge and intent in order to be convicted of a crime. Even when this is the case, however, ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse for breaking it.

Anyone facing criminal charges must ensure they understand their options for a defense strategy. It’s best to get experienced legal guidance as soon as possible to help you do that.