Actus reus

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  • Created on: 14-01-09 13:34
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Actus reus
The actus reus -- sometimes called the external
element of a crime -- is the Latin term for the "guilty
act" which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in
combination with the mens rea, i.e., the "guilty mind",
produces criminal liability in common law-based criminal
law jurisdictions Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
England, Scotland and the United States. In the United
States, some crimes also require proof of an attendant
The terms actus reus and mens rea are derived from the
principle stated by Edward Coke (pronounced 'Cook'),
namely, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea,1 which
means: "an act does not make a person guilty unless
(their) mind is also guilty", i.e., the general test is one
that requires proof of fault, culpability or
blameworthiness both in behaviour and mind. In this
respect, the role of automatism is highly relevant in
providing a positive explanation of the need to
demonstrate the voluntariness of the behaviour for it to
found liability. Once the actus reus has been established
in a conventional offence, there must be a concurrence
of both actus reus and mens rea (and in the United
States, for some crimes, an attendant circumstance) to
justify a conviction.
There are some exceptions to the general rule that a
"guilty mind" must be proved. Most legislatures create
so-called strict liability offences, which criminalise the
behaviour without the need to prove a mens rea in
relation to all the actus reus elements. The majority of
these offences are either quasi-criminal or relatively low
fault instances of behaviour. Even in these cases, liability
may sometimes still be negated if automatism is present.
When discussing the nature of an actus reus or guilty
act, legal scholars distinguish between:
commissions, "conduct" or affirmative and positive
"acts"; and

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Commonwealth legal scholars add a third class,
namely a state of affairs.
The first two are subject to a requirement of causation
and the third may or may not require an element of
voluntariness depending on the interpretation of the
actus reus and the seriousness of the offence.
The definition of each offence, whether common law or
statutory, will always include the factual components
necessary to constitute the actus reus. Some of these
facts will be:
1.…read more

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For both common law and statutory offences,
establishing the detailed list of elements necessary to
constitute the offence and their scope is a matter of
interpretation which may require the courts to review
and revise precedents to ensure that the current
interpretations match the current needs. For example, if
an offence uses a verb such as "inflict" or "enter", it is
for the courts to lay down the factors by which to
distinguish the forms of action that might satisfy the
requirement.…read more

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The answer is that each court
will make a decision based on the particular set of facts
before it but will always require a certain minimum level
of skill from the driver. Hence, an inexperienced driver
cannot use the lack of skill as an excuse. Conversely,
whether a person with vast experience as an
international rally driver should show a greater than
average level of skill in ordinary driving conditions is
usually only a matter to be considered in sentencing.…read more

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Martin was arrested at home and taken onto the highway
by police officers, where he showed signs of being
drunk. His conviction for being drunk on a public
highway was quashed because his arrival on the highway
was not voluntary. Whereas in R v Larsonneur (1933) 24
Cr. App. R. 74 Larsonneur, a French citizen, was served
with an order requiring her to leave the UK and not
return.…read more


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