Requirement of Mens Rea in Criminal Cases

19 Apr 2022

The literal translation of men’s rea from Latin is “guilty mind” but is generally referred to as the criminal intention of the offender. A mens rea denotes the state of mind required in order to convict a defendant of a specific crime. To prove guilt in a criminal case, the establishment of a mens rea of an offender is generally necessary. Usually, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of the offense committed. Usually, the court must demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of the offense. The concept of intention was well shown by Justice Holmes when he said that even a dog knows the basic difference between being stumbled over and being kicked. The prerequisite for men’s rea is that you have to be mindful of your misconduct and have a guilty state of mind; moreover, a defendant does not have to know that his act is illegal to be guilty of a crime. Instead, the defendant must be aware of the actions that meet the description of an offense. For instance, a woman who recurrently tells her friends that she desires her husband was dead cannot be imprisoned for murder built on her wish alone if the husband dies. But crime does not always imply malicious intent; even though the motives are objectively good, an offender can often be found to be having a criminal intention. 


Types of Mens Rea

Criminal cases involve one of the following types of mens rea:

i. Intent: 

There is an urge to commit a dangerous or immoral act overt and deliberate. For instance, when a person is targeted and attacked to hurt the victim, he has criminal intentions. That is to say, in other words, or the hope that a certain outcome will follow, the defendant undertakes his action. 


ii. Knowledge:

This term is used when a person knows but does not appear to notice, his acts have such consequences. For instance, if an individual strikes at someone aggressively, it may not be their primary purpose to cause damage. However, she is guilty of possessing criminal knowledge if they were aware the damage would be a predictable outcome of her conduct. 

There is a slight distinction between acting intentionally and acting knowingly, for instance: Michael and his new wife Laura decided to go on a honeymoon to Hawaii. Sarah, Michael’s jealous ex-wife, figures out which plane they are on and plants a bomb on the plane to kill Michael and Laura. Sarah knows that 98 other passengers will take the flight, and while her hate for Michael and Laura is too strong for them to die, she continues to go on with her plan. Of course, in the middle of the flight, the bomb explodes, and 100 passengers are killed on board. However, Sarah only acted knowingly with respect to the killings of the other 98 passengers, and she knew that her acts would result in their deaths, although it was not her intention to kill them. 


iii. Recklessness: 

Recklessness is the decision to act despite being aware of the dangers involved. Accordingly, if an individual causes injury when driving drunk, they will find that they are guilty of recklessly causing harm. They didn’t plan to hit anybody, and they didn’t anticipate that, but they knew they took the risk of hitting someone while driving drunk. The distinction between recklessness and knowledge is that if a person behaves knowingly, they are confident that their decisions will lead to a certain outcome. When a person acts recklessly, though, the person is not certain if there would be a certain outcome. Instead, they learn only that the outcome is a substantial risk, for instance: Michael and his new wife Laura decided to go on a honeymoon to go to Hawaii. Sarah, Michael’s jealous ex-wife, figures out which flight they are on and plants a bomb on the plane to kill Michael and Laura. Sarah doesn’t know when the flight will take off, but she sets off the bomb at 7 a.m. Of course, at 7 a.m., the explosion goes off, killing a handler which loads luggage into the plane. In this scenario, Sarah has not deliberately killed the baggage handler since it was not her intention to kill him. Furthermore, she did not deliberately kill him since it was not clear that Sarah’s conduct would result in the death of the baggage handler. However, since the possibility of Sarah’s conduct leading to someone’s death or serious wound was severe and unjustified, she has acted recklessly. 


iv. Negligence:

An individual acts negligently if they should have been aware of the severe and unjustifiable danger of a certain effect resulting from their conduct. The risks of recklessness and negligence are the same. Still, the distinction in recklessness is that an individual is conscious of the danger involved, whereas, for negligence, the individual is not aware of the risks involved. In other words, as Sarah set the bomb at 8:30 a.m., aware that someone might be killed, she has acted recklessly. If, though, she doesn’t know for whatever reason that someone could be killed, she was negligent, and a reasonable person would be conscious that somebody could be killed if they placed a bomb in the plane. 


Mens Rea in the UAE Penal Code 

Federal Law Number 3 of 1987, most commonly known as the UAE Penal Code (Penal Code), provides for regulating the moral aspect of criminal law. Article 38 of the Penal Code stipulates that intent or mistake is a moral element of a crime. The intention is present while the perpetrator will perpetuate the act or withstand it. Article 43 states that, unless the statute also provides for premeditation, the perpetrator shall have an answerable for a crime whether it has been perpetrated intentionally or by mistake. Article 52 mentions that the offender shall be punished based on their intentions or knowledge of the crime. The accomplices in the crime, either direct or by causation, shall be penalized accordingly. To conclude, Holdsworth seems to have the strongest summation where he states; in these various respects, the law has described and elaborated this concept in relation to various types of crime, starting with the idea that mens rea or the element of moral guilt is a required base for criminal liability, such that it has come to take on several nuances of guilt in various contexts. Even though mens rea has since been, in various contexts, a very technical concept with different meanings, it has never totally lost its true meaning. They have been so developed that they have been the basis of various bodies of technical doctrine, and so much of our modern criminal law has been developed. To know more you can always contact the Criminal practice department of Fotis International.