Strict Liability

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Running Head: Strict Criminal Liability

Strict Criminal Liability
Dawn Shaffer
Harrison College
Criminal Law & Procedure
Mr. Royer
5/08/2012

Most people live their lives day to day thinking they are good, upstanding citizens who never break the law, and maybe they are good upstanding citizens with good morals and values, who would never dream in a million years of committing a crime. However, according to (Forbess Law Firm, 2008), a crime happens in the United States every 14.5 seconds. With so much crime being committed, one might wonder why every person walking this planet is not incarcerated. One might wonder how they have committed a crime if they have never been to jail or prison. Today, I will answer these questions. I am going to discuss the three elements of a crime and what strict liability is. I am also going to talk about two different strict liability laws in the state of Georgia, and what the punishments are for these two specific crimes. I will then explain why I believe these two laws were legislated and why there is an increase or decrease in these crimes being committed. Frank Schmalleger states in Criminal Law Today, “From the perspective of Western jurisprudence all crimes can be said to share certain features, or elements, and the notion of crime itself can be said to rest on such general principles. Taken together, these features compose the legal essence of the concept of crime. All crimes can be said to have these general elements in one form or another.” There are three elements to a criminal act; actus reus, mens rea, and concurrence. “Actus reus is an act in violation of the law; a guilty act, mens rea is the specific mental state of the defendant at the time of the crime; a guilty mind, and concurrence is the simultaneous coexistence of (1) an act in violation of the law and (2) a culpable mental state” (Frank Schmalleger, 2012). With that said, thinking is not doing. Criminal ideas are not punished, but those who act upon those criminal ideas voluntarily are punished. For criminal liability to occur there must be either overt and voluntary action, or a failure to act when physically able as required by statute or law. In order to convict a defendant, the prosecutor must prove to a jury or judge that all of these required elements are present. This might be the rule, but there are always exceptions. A strict liability crime is defined as “a violation of law for which one may incur criminal liability without fault or intention. Strict liability offenses do not require mens rea” (Frank Schmalleger, 2012). Cornell University states, “Strict liability exists when a defendant is in legal jeopardy by virtue of a wrongful act, without any accompanying intent or mental state.” The text book definition of Strict Liability is liability without fault or intention and Schmalleger even goes on to say that strict liability offenses may even be committed by people who are not even consciously aware of what they are doing. Routine traffic offenses are generally considered strict liability offenses. The uniform rules of the road are pretty much the same no matter what jurisdiction you are in. If you are a licensed driver, you should already be aware of the basic rules of the road: no speeding, buckle your seat belt, and obey the traffic signs and lights. However, depending on jurisdiction, you will find a few different laws that you might possibly not know about. In Georgia, there is a noise ordinance violation: Georgia Uniform Rules of the Road

40-6-14 
Limits on sound volume produced by radio, tape player, or other mechanical sound-making device or instrument from within the motor vehicle.  (a) It is unlawful for any person operating or occupying a motor vehicle on a street or highway to operate or amplify the sound produced by a radio, tape player, or other mechanical sound-making device or instrument from within the motor vehicle so that the sound is plainly audible at a distance of 100...
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