Stated Culpability Requirements

52 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 2 Dec 2022

See all articles by Scott England

Scott England

University of New Mexico - School of Law

Date Written: June 30, 2022


For more than half a century, the Model Penal Code has had an outsized impact on American criminal law. The Code has influenced the law most significantly through its culpability provisions, which have been adopted at least in part in twenty-five states. The Model Penal Code’s stated-culpability provision, section 2.02(4), plays a central role in the Code’s celebrated culpability scheme. Section 2.02(4) helps enforce the Code’s norm of requiring culpability for each offense element by clarifying that a prescribed mental state generally applies to every element. Because state criminal codes routinely prescribe culpability requirements for multiple elements at a time, section 2.02(4) has significant ramifications for hundreds if not thousands of criminal offenses across the United States.

Unfortunately, section 2.02(4) is deeply flawed. Section 2.02(4) itself is unclear about when and how it applies, and the MPC’s commentary reveals the drafters’ own confusion about the provision’s role in the Code’s culpability scheme. Reviewing the law in the 25 states with culpability provisions influenced by the Code, this Article finds that state courts have also struggled in applying stated-culpability provisions, often exploiting their weaknesses in ways that undermine the Code’s vision for criminal liability. The Article concludes by recommending new culpability rules that improve on section 2.02(4), prevent the problems experienced in Model Penal Code states, and better enforce the Code’s norm of requiring culpability for each offense element.

Keywords: criminal law, model penal code, culpability, mens rea, strict liability, absolute liability, criminal codes

Suggested Citation

England, Scott, Stated Culpability Requirements (June 30, 2022). 74 Rutgers U.L. Rev. 1213, UNM School of Law Research Paper No. 2022-26, Available at SSRN:

Scott England (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - School of Law ( email )

1117 Stanford, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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