The Conundrum of Strict Liability Crimes (1)

By | Criminal Law | 3 Comments

In Morrissette vs. United States, 342 U.S. 246 (1952), Justice Robert Jackson, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the longstanding principle of common-law crimes that for an individual to be held guilty, they must have both committed the act (actus reus) and possess the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused (mens rea). However, in that case, the Court also recognized a class of public welfare or strict liability offenses that do not require mens rea. In other words, an individual may be convicted for having committed the proscribed act alone, regardless of knowledge or intention.

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