We’ve tried to explain 12 basic criminal law concepts which will give you a better understanding of some of the ideas you would need to master if considering a career in criminal law.
Actus reus – this Latin phrase translates which directly translates to guilty act. In a criminal case it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove “proof of fault” which could also be described as a culpability or blame-worthiness. It is necessary to prove that the defendant was guilty in mind.
Causation – did they bring about the result? It may be simple but it’s important when putting together a legal case that the solicitors can be sure that the people accused were responsible for the act or omission which was caused the illegal consequence.
Concurrence – we have already discussed the guilty action, concurrence describes the need for bother the guilty mind and guilty action. Concurrence is not always needed in cases of strict liability. In principle, if the guilty action does not coincide in point of time with the guilty action then no crime has been committed.
Mens rea – this is the mental element of criminal law, it can be compared simplistically to the idea of a motive. Guilty mind does not in isolation does not make someone criminally guilty. There are typically four different kinds of Mens rea, intention, where it was planned. Knowledge, recklessness and negligence are other circumstances where someone can be described as being guilty of mind.
Intention – did they have the foresight to see the consequences and desire to act or fail to act to prevent the consequence. If they are able to prove this the person isn’t guilty. This concept is particularly important and is one of the areas most widely contested when cases reach court.
Recklessness – a type of Mens rea, it falls as being less culpable than intention or knowledge but the person still would have been able to prevent the consequence had they not been guilty.
Wilful Blindness – this is where an individual seeks to avoid liability for a crime by making themselves deliberately unaware of facts which would make them liable for the crime. This protects in situations where people make deliberate attempts to excuse themselves from liability.
Criminal Negligence – careless, inattentive or neglectful. Negligence is another type of Mens rea. To be criminally negligent the person accused is has had the foresight to see the risk which is responsible for the illegal outcome.
Ignorantia juris non excusat – a direct translation from Latin of this phrase is Ingnorance of the Law doesn’t excuse. This is one of the more easy to follow aspects of criminal law. Just because someone might not be aware of the law or some of its details that doesn’t mean they cannot be guilty.
Vicarious Liability – this means that if a group of people are collectively involved in criminal activity they are all liable for their actions carried out as the group. Typically in most modern criminal cases there isn’t a vicarious liability and someone has to be responsible to be found guilty
Corporate Viability – in the eyes of the law companies and corporations can be treated as if they were a ‘real’ individual person.
Strict Liability – in cases of strict liability the mens rea doesn’t have to be proven, the person being charged with a strict liability crime may well be found guilty and convicted even if they were unaware or ignorant of the crime.