Learned a new latin phrase: mens rea


warrior_won
#1
Was doing some case law research on the subjects of police negligence and misconduct, and learned a new latin phrase: mens rea.

Here's the definition from www.nolo.com (external - login to view)

The mental component of criminal liability. To be guilty of most crimes (external - login to view), a defendant (external - login to view) must have committed the criminal act (the actus reus (external - login to view)) in a certain mental state (the mens rea). The mens rea of robbery, for example, is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property.

The intent!

By the way, who was it that said it was unethical for an officer of the court (lawyer) to question another officer of the court (police officer)? From reading case law, I can see that police officers get ripped to shreds all of the time in the courts.

There are cases where the police are accused of negligence, assault, maliscious prosecution, use of excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, you name it. I was just looking at one case where the police were accused of conspiracy to traffic narcotics. Unethical to accuse and question the police in court? My ***!
 
darkbeaver
#2
I don't think it's unethical, but i do think it's dangerous in these times. Discretion is supposed to be the better part of valour.
 
MikeyDB
#3
Long time ago here at CC I tried to interest people in examining "intent"...no one cares so why bother?
 
Zan
#4
I must have missed that thread MDB - I'd have been interested. I've said many times that it's the intent within one's actions that speaks the loudest. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the subject.
 
darkbeaver
#5
Carlos Casteneda spoke of intent, at length.
 
Vereya
#6
A person's intent is interesting enough in itself, from an abstract point of view. But I'd rather overlook the intent, and look at the result. You know that saying - the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And intent is harder to figure out, it might be something totally different from what you think it is, or from what you are told it is. And actions speak for themselves.
 
darkbeaver
#7
Rejection is poor food for intent, it poisons the result in advance.
 
karrie
#8
ultimately, intention is only a fraction of the overall picture of how to judge a person's actions.

There are simply too many mental issues which make it possible for intention to not jive with action. And it's too easy to lie about what your intention really was.
 
Kreskin
#9
Intent is the foundation of criminal law. Without it everyone would be criminals.
 
karrie
#10
Intent isn't the basis.

If it were, then no one would ever be charged with a crime for dangerous driving... they didn't INTEND to get in an accident (who would?).

People wouldn't be charged with criminal negligence. They never INTENDED for anyone to die when they didn't perform their job properly.

Not to mention those who have intentions to murder, yet don't succeed. They aren't still charged with murder, even if it was their intent. They're charged with the mere action, the attempt at murder.

Intent is only a fraction of what we use to judge action in criminal law. Action and result bear much more weight.
 
darkbeaver
#11
Usually when you drive to fast you intended to, the intent of drinking is the altered state, intent is the basis. It is my shared intent to start an arguement about it.
 
Kreskin
#12
..and if you accidentally tried to open the wrong car door in the parking lot, the car that looks exactly like yours three spaces away, then you were an attempted car thief..no excuses, bring on the charges.
 
darkbeaver
#13
Ignorance is no excuse, baliff, march the quilty basturd in.
 
karrie
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by darkbeaverView Post

Usually when you drive to fast you intended to, the intent of drinking is the altered state, intent is the basis. It is my shared intent to start an arguement about it.

well if that were the case, then those who drive too fast and/or drink on the road, would all be given the same sentence regardless of what happens as a result of that 'intent'. But they aren't all judged the same are they? They're judged based on the results. No accident results in a different sentence than killing a family of five does. So clearly, the 'intent' isn't what the criminal system bases their decisions on. The result is.
 
Kreskin
#15
Mistake of Fact is a defense.
 
karrie
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by KreskinView Post

..and if you accidentally tried to open the wrong car door in the parking lot, the car that looks exactly like yours three spaces away, then you were an attempted car thief..no excuses, bring on the charges.

hey, I never said it didn't factor in... I said it's a part of the decision. And I'm betting if you broke the window and hotwired the car, unsure of why your key wasn't working, they'd ignore your professed intent, and prosecute you. lol.
 
darkbeaver
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

well if that were the case, then those who drive too fast and/or drink on the road, would all be given the same sentence regardless of what happens as a result of that 'intent'. But they aren't all judged the same are they? They're judged based on the results. No accident results in a different sentence than killing a family of five does. So clearly, the 'intent' isn't what the criminal system bases their decisions on. The result is.

You're quilty of thinking about it, lots of criminals remain at large. We expect alegiance to a higher power than the system here at CCC. There's no substitute for sweet intentions.
 
darkbeaver
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by KreskinView Post

Mistake of Fact is a defense.

Expand that for me Kreskin. I can see a someone delivering a pizza to an address he got from a dispatcher who made a mistake on his note pad.
 
Kreskin
#19
I suppose if you rode of someone elses bicycle thinking it was you own it would be a mistake of fact. That sort of thing.
 
warrior_won
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

ultimately, intention is only a fraction of the overall picture of how to judge a person's actions.

There are simply too many mental issues which make it possible for intention to not jive with action. And it's too easy to lie about what your intention really was.

That's true. You can put a spin on your intent, as to make your actions appear other than what they truly are. Let me offer an example:

Take the case of a police officer who violates a private citizen's rights to privacy. Let's suppose that an officer releases information about a citizen that he has no right or authority to release, and he does so in order to gain information that he has no right or authority to collect. This is the action. We do not know the intent until we make an issue of the privacy violation.

So let's suppose that we make an issue of the violation. Let's also suppose that we use another authority (The Privacy Commissioner, for example) to determine that a violation of the person's privacy had indeed occurred.

Let's suppose that the officer, or the officer's agent, in response to the finding, offers that the offending officer did so only with the best of intent. That his intent was not to invade the person's privacy, but to ensure that the citizen was getting the best possible assistance and service from the officer and the police service. Can we accept this explanation at face value, or should we dismiss this explanation as mere spin and counter that the officer had more sinister intentions?

Your thoughts?
 
warrior_won
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post


Intent is only a fraction of what we use to judge action in criminal law. Action and result bear much more weight.

That would depend on the offense. As you so quaintly pointed out, the mens rea would be the key element in an attempted murder charge. You would have to make the case that the accused was "of the mind" to take another's life.

For an attempted murder charge to be successful does there really need to be an "actual attempt"? Or is simply planning and taking action toward that end sufficient?
 
MikeyDB
#22
Karrie raises some good points. If a male (since the condition of green/blue color blindness is predominantly male) swears the car that hit that youngster on the street was blue when in fact it was green, that person isn't "lying", their intent is to provide information that may assist the authorities to find a hit-and-run-driver...for instance. The weakness is that we don't pay enough attention to "intent". When a politician stands before a board of inquiry and says.."I can't recall..." or "I don't remember that.." there is a reasonable doubt that what that person is saying as sworn testimony is what they know to be the truth.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and when we have a strain of human beings that call themselves "politicians" and history repeatedly confirms that that strain of human being lies through their teeth time and time again, the veracity of their testimony is justly suspect. The intent that's involved may be to misdirect attention and through this misdirection relieve the focus of scrutiny on a pal a campaign contributor or a "friend" who has some means to influence the chances that this "politician" will be successful at the next election process.

What would be a sufficient incidence of knowingly lying to people (politicians lie all the time and we all know it..) before whatever that person is saying is dismissed as probably not true or accurate..?

Intent insofar as the politician is concerned is to hang onto the reins of power and authority and to do that, they lie like a cheap rug anytime the situation demands it.

Intent doesn't have to be obvious and in most cases, the intentions of one human being are rarely elaborated before action is taken.
 
warrior_won
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by KreskinView Post

Mistake of Fact is a defense.

You would dispute fact at trial. If you were convicted on facts that were false, or subsequently proven false, you can appeal on a question of fact.

You can raise a question of law as both grounds for defense and/or appeal as well. For example, you could argue that the facts may indeed be correct, but the manner in which the facts were presented or ascertained contravened law. Under those circumstances you could argue that the "facts" could not be used to support a conviction.
 
MikeyDB
#24
To muddy the waters even more....

Are Matel and Fisher Price, the FDA and others culpable under the notion of criminal negligence when their practices introduce unsafe prodcts to the consumer?

Is the "inent" to make as much money as possible regardless of the consequences acceptable to the consuming public?

Mr. Toy Dude: "Well I didn't MEAN to sell poison products to parents, it's just one of those crazy things that happens when we put up manufacturing plants in nations that don't have standards to protect consumers..."

Mr. FDA: We didn't MEAN to ignore the lengthy list of warnings and potential health hazards presented by toys and food entering through our system via greedy manufacturers and an apathetic brain-washed consuming public..."

If you think "intent" isn't important ....
 
karrie
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by warrior_wonView Post

That would depend on the offense. As you so quaintly pointed out, the mens rea would be the key element in an attempted murder charge. You would have to make the case that the accused was "of the mind" to take another's life.

For an attempted murder charge to be successful does there really need to be an "actual attempt"? Or is simply planning and taking action toward that end sufficient?

No, there needs to be an actual attempt. There is an alternate charge for the scenario you depict, something along the lines of conspiring to commit murder. But even then, there needs to be some provable action having taken place for a court case to be made... a gun bought, a car rented, a hit man hired or something of that nature, uttering threats... something.
 
karrie
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by warrior_wonView Post

Can we accept this explanation at face value, or should we dismiss this explanation as mere spin and counter that the officer had more sinister intentions?

Your thoughts?

His intent does weigh into the issue to a degree. But I don't think it ought to dismiss it, no. Intent, action, result, are all factors.
 
warrior_won
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

No, there needs to be an actual attempt. There is an alternate charge for the scenario you depict, something along the lines of conspiring to commit murder. But even then, there needs to be some provable action having taken place for a court case to be made... a gun bought, a car rented, a hit man hired or something of that nature, uttering threats... something.

Uttering threats? lol. I'm quite familiar with that one.
 
warrior_won
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

His intent does weigh into the issue to a degree. But I don't think it ought to dismiss it, no. Intent, action, result, are all factors.

You don't think that one ought to dismiss the 'spin' placed on the action by the officer? Remember, this 'spin' is being applied as a defense. A means to diminish the overall offense. To shrug it off, if you will. There is no question that the offense was committed. What we want to know is why it was committed; we're not satisfied with their explanation.

We can make assumptions as to why it was committed. We can establish that those assumptions have some merit based on a pattern of conduct. Purely circumstantial, mind you.
 
karrie
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by warrior_wonView Post

You don't think that one ought to dismiss the 'spin' placed on the action by the officer? Remember, this 'spin' is being applied as a defense. A means to diminish the overall offense. To shrug it off, if you will. There is no question that the offense was committed. What we want to know is why it was committed; we're not satisfied with their explanation.

We can make assumptions as to why it was committed. We can establish that those assumptions have some merit based on a pattern of conduct. Purely circumstantial, mind you.

Well, if you dismiss or completely ignore his professed intent (even if it's a lie), then you set a precedent to have to ignore all other intents discussed by other people. I don't see the value in that. Giving it less weight because you believe it to be a lie makes sense, but, without knowing the case, being the judge or in the jury, one can't really say 'his intent is worth this weight'.
 
warrior_won
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Well, if you dismiss or completely ignore his professed intent (even if it's a lie), then you set a precedent to have to ignore all other intents discussed by other people. I don't see the value in that. Giving it less weight because you believe it to be a lie makes sense, but, without knowing the case, being the judge or in the jury, one can't really say 'his intent is worth this weight'.

That's my point. If you were before a Judge or Jury, you would want to dismiss his professed intent. You don't want to give him the benefit of the doubt. You want to plant a seed in the mind of the Judge and Jury that there was more there than meets the eye -- that the event was anything but prima facie.

You would probably then move to establish a foundation on which to doubt his credibility. You could do this in several ways, with the ultimate goal being that the Judge or Jury would be unable to believe a word he/she said.

It's classic one, two, down for the count. lol.
 

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