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Mens Rea

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Mens rea

Mens rea is the Latin term meaning “guilty mind.” In criminal law, mens rea means the state of mind required for the commission of a crime. Mens rea is typically divided into four categories, as different crimes require different levels to apply:

The first level, intent, requires that the defendant intend for the specific result. First-degree murder and most theft crimes often require this level of mens rea, though most crimes do not.

The second level, knowingly, requires that the defendant know the likely result of the act. Second-degree murder and most assaults require this level of intent,

The third level, recklessness, requires that the defendant knew of the risk and consciously ignored it. Involuntary manslaughter, such as when drunk driving results in a death, is an example.

The fourth level is negligence, which requires that the defendant should have perceived a risk but failed to do so. While negligence is a common civil standard, most crimes require something more than negligence.