Actus Reus Essay

1745 words - 7 pages

Actus Reus

The Criminal Law of England and Wales "means the portion of the law of England and Wales, which deals with the components and consequences of criminal acts. The English criminal law is in large part not regulated by law, but in the tradition of common law judge-made law. The offense consists in the English law of Actus Reus and mens rea together.
Actus Reus is the Latin term meaning the act of guilt (the outer or objective of a criminal offense). This is an essential element in the determination of a crime. Thus, when no reasonable doubt exists as a result of the demonstration of proof, the act of guilt, shown together with the intention of the individual to commit a crime (mens rea), creates criminal liability of the accused in criminal jurisdictions that follow the system of common law (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Ireland).

Discussion and Analysis
Actus Reus literally means conduct of a person. The phrase is used to refer to the element of an offense that involves prohibited conduct. The Actus Reus is one of two elements that make up criminal offenses. The second element is called mens rea or mental state. No crime may legally exist without an Actus Reus, while some regulatory crimes, called strict liability offenses, may exist without a mens rea. Examples of the Actus Reus element of a capital offense would be causing death, causing death while committing another crime, causing the death of a police officer, and causing death by using a bomb. In each of the examples, the mental state of the defendant is not relevant to Actus Reus. The mental state is relevant for the second element, i.e., the mens rea.

General Perception
The Actus Reus requirement is met if a defendant purposely, knowingly, or recklessly does something that is forbidden by law. To act knowingly, the person must do so voluntarily and cannot be held criminally liable if the act was based on a mistake or some other innocent reason (Felson, Pp 34).
A person can be charged with a crime for not acting, if there is a legal duty to act. For example, parents have a duty to protect their children from harm. If they fail to take reasonable steps to protect their children, a reckless omission to act could result in criminal charges. Parents who failed to feed their children could be prosecuted for child neglect. The duty to act is usually defined in criminal statutes. Thus, the deliberate failure to file a federal income tax return violates the criminal provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Conversely, if there is no legal duty to act, the failure to do so is not a crime. For example, the failure to rescue a drowning stranger does not meet the Actus Reus requirement.

Actus Reus in Criminal Law
This principle has been restricted by many exceptions: Failure leads to criminality about it, if the statute law is merely said that a success "caused" to be. But also in the field of law is not fixed common-law -crime several exceptions...

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