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Is Mens rea a dead issue in a statutory offense? Like in an assault?

Orlando, FL |
Filed under: Criminal charges

Someone was telling me they dont care about that (guilty mind ) in these modern courts. If they think the act occurred your toast. For instance in an assault. He is saying they dont care if you meant to cause harm anymore, "you did it now pay me" even when there is no proof of injury but only a claim by conspiring witnesses; when under common law that would not be sufficient. Is that assessment/opinion correct?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Ok, I'm going to try to answer your questions, but I'm not sure what you're exactly asking.
    Mens rea is not a "dead issue" for most crimes in Florida. Most, but not all, crimes require the State to prove two parts. The first is that a person did the act, the second is that they had the intent to do the act. There are several exceptions. In your example, an assault, the intent, or "mens rea", is part that the State needs to prove.
    However, a simple assault is a 2nd degree misdemeanor. In basic terms, it means that the defendant put the victim in fear that the defendant was going to hit the victim. So they don't have to have injuries. Usually if there were injuries, they would be charged with battery.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the phrase "you did it now pay me"; that sounds like a civil offense, where one person would be suing someone else for money. If that's what you're asking about, you should post this in the Civil section of this website.

    I'm also not sure what you mean by "conspiring witnesses"- if there are multiple witnesses, and you think they are making up their story to match each other, that is something to bring up to your attorney. They may be able to use that to your advantage.
    However, you first need to determine if this is a civil or criminal matter. The difference is huge!

  2. Malum in se or malum prohibitum? That is the question. Whether something is wrong in an of itself, or wrong because a statute says so. We need facts in order to do anything more than guess about what you ask. Mens rea is a deep concern for modern criminal courts. How can it not be?

    R. Jason de Groot, Esq., 386-337-8239

  3. Here are the Florida Jury instructions in for assault:

    F.S. 784.011
    Before you can find the defendant guilty of Assault, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

    1. (Defendant) intentionally and unlawfully threatened, either by word or act, to do violence to (victim).

    2. At the time (defendant) appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat.

    3. The act of (defendant) created in the mind of (victim) a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place. | For confidential answers on Florida law, call 1.877.452.9457. Attorney James Regan, LL.M, Esq., is a Florida lawyer answering questions pro bono. Answering these consumer questions based on limited and unverified facts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Being posted on the internet, these questions and answers are not confidential. For confidential answers on Florida law, call 1.800.452.9357.

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