The “Guilty Mind:” Mens Rea



Few legal terms confuse behavioral scientists and mental health professionals more than mens rea (guilty mind), largely because the law employs the term in diverse and often inconsistent ways. This chapter attempts to clarify the numerous confusions and to explain why mens rea is central to criminal liability. It begins with a brief introduction to criminal liability and the most general usages of mens rea, establishes a working vocabulary, and provides an understanding of the relevant criminal law doctrines. The chapter then addresses the law’s concept of the person and the moral justifications for punishment because the requirement of mens rea for criminal liability is derived from these considerations. The chapter then examines in detail the technical meaning of mens rea, including the distinction between “specific” and “general” intent.


Criminal Liability Strict Liability Special Mens Model Penal Code Judgment Error 
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