Model Penal Code (MPC) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

The Model Penal Code (MPC) is a model criminal code first developed by the American Law Institute (ALI) in 1962; adopted by many states.

The Model Penal Code (MPC) is a model criminal code developed by the American Law Institute (ALI) in 1962. The MPC provides a comprehensive and systematic approach to the criminal justice system, serving as a template for many states to use in drafting their own criminal codes. The code has been revised over the years, as recently as in 2018.

The MPC is a statutory framework that aims to provide consistency in criminal law across jurisdictions. It contains provisions that cover various aspects of criminal law, including principles of liability, defenses, sentencing, and criminal procedure. The MPC was intended to simplify and rationalize criminal law, making it more accessible and understandable to lawyers, judges, and the general public.

One of the key features of the MPC is the concept of mens rea, or culpable mental state. The code categorizes culpable mental states into four levels of intent: purposely, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. These levels are designed to provide guidance to judges and juries in determining the intent of an accused person, which is a critical element in many criminal offenses.

The MPC also includes provisions on defenses to criminal liability, such as self-defense, defense of others, and duress. These provisions set out the circumstances under which a defendant may be justified in committing a crime, even though they would otherwise be guilty. The code also provides guidance on sentencing, including the use of probation, fines, and imprisonment.

In addition to its impact on state criminal codes, the MPC has also influenced the development of federal criminal law. For example, the MPC’s provisions on mens rea have been cited in several U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Elonis v. United States (2015) and United States v. Gaudin (1995).

One criticism of the MPC is that it is too abstract and theoretical, making it difficult to apply in practice. The code is also criticized for its lack of attention to the role of race and gender in the criminal justice system. However, despite these criticisms, the MPC remains an important tool for legal scholars, practitioners, and lawmakers seeking to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/09/2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.