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Actus reus

An illegal act; the act or failure to act that constitutes the crime.

Constructive intent

A principle of law that refers to those situations where the actor does not intend any harm but should have known that his or her behavior created a high risk of harm to others.

Criminal negligence

Behavior in which a person fails to reasonably perceive substantial and unjustifiable risks of dangerous consequences; negligence of such a nature and to such a degree that it is punishable as a crime; or a flagrant and reckless disregard for the safety of others or willful indifference to the safety and welfare of others.

Criminal sanction

The punishment that is associated with being convicted of a crime.


Blameworthiness for criminal conduct based on mens rea.

Elements of a crime

The parts of a crime that the prosecution must establish to obtain a conviction. If any one element of a crime cannot be established by the prosecution, then a finding of not guilty must be entered as to that crime.

General intent

A concept employed by the courts to explain the required criminal intent for a defendant to be convicted of a certain crime, by which the government is not required to prove that the defendant intend to bring about a particular intent.

Legal causation

A cause recognized by law as necessary to impose criminal liability.

Mala in se

Crimes that are inherently bad; for example, murder, rape, and theft.

Mala prohibita

Acts that are crimes only because the government has declared them criminal. Acts that are not inherently bad; for example, hunting without a license.

Mens rea

The required mental state necessary to constitute a crime.

Model Penal Code (MPC)

A model code of criminal laws developed by the American Law Institute for the purpose of standardizing general provisions of criminal liability, sentencing, defenses, and the definitions of specific crimes between and among the states.


The unconscious creation of risk, or the mental state in which the actor unknowingly creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to others.


The conscious creation of substantial and unjustifiable risk.

Specific intent

The intent to accomplish a specific purpose as an element of a crime.

Strict liability crimes

Those crimes that require no proof of culpability or state of mind and are justified on the basis of the need to encourage extremely high standards of care for the protection of the public.

Transferred intent

A principle of law that transfers the intent to harm to the person actually harmed. Involves a situation where a person intends to injure one person and mistakenly injures a third person.

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