Strict Liability

Fundamentals of Criminal Law by Adam J. McKee

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The necessity of criminal intent is a cornerstone of our legal system. Sometimes, however, lawmakers deem it appropriate to remove this mental element from various crimes and punish people for merely committing the prohibited act. Acts that do not require a mental element to be criminal are called strict liability offenses.

The most common strict liability offenses are violations, such as citations for speeding and littering.

Often, state penal codes are written such that the legislature may dispense with the mental element by specifically stating so in the statute.  This can be seen in the Arkansas example:

ACA § 5-2-204. Exceptions to Culpable Mental State Requirement

(a) A person does not commit an offense unless his liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act which he is physically capable of performing.

(b) A person does not commit an offense unless he acts with a culpable mental state with respect to each element of the offense that requires a culpable mental state.

(c) However, a culpable mental state is not required if:

(1) The offense is a violation, unless a culpable mental state is expressly included in the definition of the offense; or

(2) An offense defined by a statute not a part of this code clearly indicates a legislative intent to dispense with any culpable mental state requirement for the offense or for any element thereof.


Modification History

File Created:  07/12/2018

Last Modified:  07/12/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License

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