Authority, Freedom, and the Guilty Mind
61 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2016 Last revised: 24 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 8, 2016
Imagine an actor who commits a crime in thrall to a powerful desire. Think, for example, about those we call addicts, phobics, maniacs, philiacs, provokees, and so forth. Do any conditions exist under which such actors should be immune to criminal liability when they choose to commit a crime in order to mollify their enthralling desire? Yes. An actor should be immune to criminal liability when, assuming he freely chooses to commit a crime (and thus satisfies the demand that his act be guilty or his actus reus), he nonetheless fails to manifest a guilty mind or mens rea, i.e., his choice to commit the crime reflected no ill will for the state’s authority or its criminal laws. I doubt this condition will obtain very often, but when it does, any actor fulfilling it is beyond the state’s authority to punish.
Keywords: authority, freedom, mens rea, guilty mind
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation