Fundamentals of Criminal Law
Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.
Jack Brown, Ph.D.
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The Mental Element
Most serious crimes require a criminal act and criminal intent. The intent element is fundamental to our legal system because we generally only want to punish those who are worthy of blame.
In law, blameworthiness is often referred to as culpability. When we purposefully commit a criminal act, then we can be held accountable for it. We are even willing to punish people who may not have meant to do something but should have known better. However, if an act was purely accidental or unavoidable, then we generally will not punish the actor. Arkansas law recognizes four culpable mental states, as does the Model Penal Code.
MPC Culpable Mental States
As used in this code, unless the context otherwise requires, there are four (4) kinds of culpable mental states, which are defined as follows:
(1) “Purposely.” A person acts purposely with respect to his conduct or a result thereof when it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result;
(2) “Knowingly.” A person acts knowingly with respect to his conduct or the attendant circumstances when he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result;
(3) “Recklessly.” A person acts recklessly with respect to attendant circumstances or a result of his conduct when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of a nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation;
(4) “Negligently.” A person acts negligently with respect to attendant circumstances or a result of his conduct when he should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor’s failure to perceive it, considering the nature and purpose of his conduct and the circumstances known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor’s situation.
Modification History File Created: 07/12/2018 Last Modified: 07/12/2018
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