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.
Ya, I got first hand experience with that situation, my poor mother had to smooth that situation over with her BOSS! (yes, she worked at the store I took candy from as a toddler)
How young are we talking here? That kid looks about five or so. If your kid hasn’t grasped the concept of “not yours” by the time they’re that old, there’s a problem.
Actually, a 5 year old wouldn’t fit in the trolley like that. This is more like 2-3 years old, and no, at that age, a child does not even grasp the concept of “Me”, much less “not mine”