Mens Rea and Actus Reus

To obtain a criminal conviction, the prosecution must establish the presence of two elements at the time of the crime—namely, actus reus (“guilty act”) and mens rea (“guilty mind”). A failure to show the presence of these elements will lead to an unconditional acquittal of the charged crime. Because both must be proven with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution at trial, the argument that there was no actus reus or mens rea is not a defense per se. They are unlike various affirmative defenses, such as the insanity defense or selfdefense, which are viewed as excuses or justifications for otherwise disfavored conduct.

Actus Reus

Actus reus is the conduct requirement for a crime. The actus reus requirement excludes from criminal liability mere thoughts, a ...

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