What do the legal terms Actus Reus and Mens Rea mean?  

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Mens Reais Latin for "guilty mind" and in a legal setting (it originated as a concept in English law) it means the mental portion of the crime a defendant is accused of.  That is to say, did they intend to commit the crime?  Were they mentally capable of it?  Sometimes in informal terms, you'll hear a prosecutor looking for motive and intent, did the defendant have a reason to commit the crime and followed through with a clear decision to do so?

Actus Reusis Latin for "guilty act" and is the actual act of committing the crime, the physical action that a person is charged for.  In some legal systems, and in general in legal thought, a person cannot be considered guilty of Actus Reus if Mens Rea cannot be proven.  Those ruled unfit for trial or mentally incompetent to stand trial fall under this category.


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