Criminal Liability And Strict Liability

1271 Words 5 Pages
Criminal liability is based upon the coincidence of the guilty act (actus reus) and the guilty mind (mens rea). To be liable, the defendant must have the guilty state of mind at the time he commits the guilty act. Some offenses, however, don’t require mens rea with regard to at least one element of the actus reus. These offenses are called strict liability offenses. When both the actus reus and the mens rea are established and coincide, or when the offense committed is one of strict liability, an absence of valid defence leads to criminal liability.
1.1. Actus Reus
The actus reus of an offense could be described as the guilty act; it encompasses all elements of the offense except for the state of mind of the defendant. There are different types
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The offense is said to be strict with regard to that element but mens rea may still be required in relation to the other aspects of the actus reus. Most strict liability offenses are considered as regulatory offenses; namely, offenses with no moral issues and for which the penalty is small. Strict liability is also applicable to offenses of social concern, which threaten public safety. In these cases, the penalty may be severe. Offenses such as road traffic, pollution, drugs or weapons cases are often considered strict liability offenses. The principle of strict liability is sometimes regarded as an injustice because a person can still be liable when not at fault or despite their taking all reasonable care. However, it makes the enforcement of certain offenses regarded as quasi-criminal easier and reinforces public safety.
1.4. General Defences
When a defendant is charged with an offense, various defences are available to him. Some, the specific defences, can only be used for articular offenses but other, the general defences, can be used for all offenses. They include insanity, automatism, intoxication and duress by threats or of circumstances. These defences can either result in acquittal (automatism for example) or in a reduction of liability (diminished responsibility reduces murder to

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