Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mens rea

In criminal law, mens rea means the gravamen of the offense. It is derived from the latin maxim Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea, which means that "evil intent must unite with an unlawful act for a crime to exist." There can be no crime when the criminal mind is wanting.

In Ombudsman vs. Torres (G.R. No. 168309, January 29, 2008), the Supreme Court reiterated the rule laid down in Lecaroz vs. Sandiganbayan which also qualified that neglect betrays criminal intent, to wit:
 "As a general rule, ignorance or mistake as to particular facts, honest and real, will exempt the doer from felonious responsibility. The exception of course is neglect in the discharge of duty or indifference to consequences, which is equivalent to criminal intent, for in this instance, the element of malicious intent is supplied by the element of negligence and imprudence."
The doctrine applies to crimes mala in se, mens rea being defined as a guilty mind, a guilty or wrongful purpose or criminal intent, and essential for criminal libility. A criminal law that contains no mens rea requirement infringes on constitutionally protected rights. The criminal statute must also provide for the overt acts that constitute the crime. For a crime to exist in our legal law, it is not enough that mens rea be shown; there must also be an actus reus which is defined as an action or conduct that is a constituent element of a crime, as opposed to the mental state of the accused.

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