The basic components of a criminal offense are listed below; generally, each element of an offense falls into one or another of these categories. At common law, conduct could not be considered criminal unless a defendant possessed some level of intention — either purpose, knowledge, or recklessness — with regard to both the nature of his alleged conduct and the existence of the factual circumstances under which the law considered that conduct criminal. However, for some legislatively enacted crimes, the most notable example being statutory rape, a defendant need not have had any degree of belief or willful disregard as to the existence of certain factual circumstances (such as the age of the accuser) that rendered his conduct criminal; such crimes are known as strict liability offenses.
The basic elements of the crime can be stated as
● the defendant must usually have both committed
an actus reus (a guilty act) and have a mens rea (a guilty
mind) to be liable for a criminal offence;
● criminal offences are not normally committed by an
● the three main forms of mens rea are intention,
recklessness and negligence;
● the doctrine of transferred malice; and
● the requirement that the actus reus and mens rea of a
crime should usually both exist at the same point in
Mental state (Mens rea)
Mens rea refers to the crime's mental elements of the defendant's intent. This is a necessary element—that is, the criminal act must be voluntary or purposeful. Mens rea is the mental intention (mental fault), or fudge the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense, sometimes called the guilty mind. It stems from the ancient maxim of obscure origin, "actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit reas" that is translated as "the act is not guilty unless the mind is guilty." For example, the mens rea of aggravated battery is the intention to do serious bodily harm. Mens rea is almost always a necessary component in...