Actus reus and mens rea are two most important elements of a crime that is able to be found in every book related to criminal law. If you are not a law person and have no idea about it but you are interested in knowing more, check out the rest of the post.
Details about Mens Rea
In the 17th century, mens rea was introduced. At the time, a Latin maxim Actus Reus Non Facit Reum, Nisi Mens Sit Rea was also introduced in legal parlance. The maxim is normally used to call a criminal or a criminal act. In general, Mens Rea is described as a mental element of a crime. It is the reason why the prosecutor has to prove without any doubts, the guilt of the accused in commission of a certain crime. The concept of mens rea is believed to have something to do with the time. However, the essence of this maxim is eternal.
In the case of Regina v. Falkner[i], the defendant burned down a cargo ship while at the same time stealing rum that was placed in a cask without having any intention as it was an accident. At the time, the defendant was indicted and found guilty for stealing the rum. Not only that, he was also indicted and found guilty for setting the ship on fire. As he did not accept the judgement, he then appealed. The mens rea requirement was explained by Lord Fitzgerald and he thought that the defendant should have intended to do a crime which would be expected to lead to the real harm he was charged for.
It is worth noting that each offence is a different requirement that is related to mens rea. Basically, each offense has different mens rea. There is no “One mens rea for all”. Sometimes, people think mens rea is movite when in fact it is different and these are two different things. Motive is described as the things that push the accused to form an intention. The intention is preceded by this one and it is actually not allowed to be used interchangeably in law. Motive cannot be the only thing that can be used to judge that there is indeed an intention of committing a crime. One may have a strong motive to kill another but it is not enough to result in the actual crime. It explains why it is not allowed to say that one is a criminal because they had a motive to do a crime. In the criminal law, it is important to study about even a small thing and understand the difference between these two.
Details about Actus Reus
Actus reus is the term that is used to call the act or omission that consists of the physical elements of a crime as required by law. In the situations where someone had a duty to act but failed to do so, this one could be mean as omissions as well. To make an action labeled as an act, it must be either barred or commanded by the law. For instance, in the case of R v. Dytham(ii), a cop witnessed someone getting kicked to death when he was in the middle of his job. Unfortunately, he failed to intervene. Due to his failed action, he was convicted of the common law offence. If you are wondering why, the reason is because he had neglected to act to guard or apprehend the victim. In Davey v. Lee(iii), according to the court, the actus reus that was important to constitute the attempt would be complete if the prisoner does something that leads to the commission of a certain crime and the thing is not simply remotely related to the commission of it, and the action cannot be regarded as having a few intentions other than the commission of that certain crime. It can be said that actual act is the main focus of the actus reus and not the mental state of the wrongdoer. Actus reus is something that has something to do with the human conduct.
Meaning of Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea
After understanding about mens rea and actus reus, it is time for you to understand about the Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea. Feel free to take a breath first before getting ready.
It has been known that Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea is considered as a legal maxim. In English, the statement means “An act does not make anyone guilty unless there is a criminal intent or guilty mind.”. To understand this maxim better, the help from actus reus and mens rea is needed. A thing is not considered as a crime per se if actus reus is not accompanied by a mens rea. On the other words, if a wrongful act committed by someone is not the result of a guilty intention, the act is not counted as a crime. The essence of this saying is described on the Section 14 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Proving the accused’s guilt of one has to show the illegal act that was coupled with the intention of the accused to commit the said act. Therefore, it can be concluded that guilty mind, such as the intention of the accused to commit the crime, is preliminary in proving the accused guilty of that certain crime.
For instance, if John crashed into the car owned by Max with the intention of killing him and the crash led to the death of Max, John would be guilty of murder. On the other hand, if John crashed into the Max’s car unintentionally and without any intention, and Max is harmed even a little, it can be concluded that it was an accident and A is careless. In the similar case, if one injures his attackers to save themselves, their act would be devoid of mens rea, if their act of private defense would be covered under Section 96 to 106.