The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law Chapter 7: Axes of Evil Page 1: Liability
The Criminal Lawyer’s Guide to Criminal Law (with pictures!)
Part 7: “Axes of Evil”
In part 6, we saw that how CULPABLE someone is depends on their MENS REA—their mental state when they did the deed.
Number line of mens rea from “less” to “more,” including “accident” “negligence” “recklessness” “knowledge” and “intent”
It’s almost as if, the more they should have known the consequences of their actions, the more culpable they are. The worse the crime, and the harsher the punishment.
But what about, instead of focusing on whether someone SHOULD have known the consequences, we ask whether they even COULD have known?
Toddler in a shopping cart reaching for candy bars
Take, for example, a toddler who swipes some candy in the checkout line. The kid isn’t old enough to know it’s wrong. The very concepts of “property” and “not yours” are entirely foreign, impossible to imagine.