The actus reus and the mens rea or guilty mind are important requirements of criminal liability. The element of actus reus is often referred to as human conduct rule and demands that a crime must be an act. According to (Boyes-Watson, 2014) people cannot be penalized on basis of criminal thoughts instead they are made accountable for deeds. It is the conduct that is prohibited by the law and not thoughts and the behavior that pushes such thoughts into action is what is punishable. Moreover, (Lippman, 2014) asserts thoughts cannot be penalized because it is difficult to measure harm caused by thoughts whereas social harm caused by an act can be measured easily and proportional punishment imposed.
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Criminal acts can only be considered for criminal liability if they result from voluntary acts. According to (Lippman, 2014) once an act is determined as resulting from involuntary act, it is not punishable as this will not deter similar offence in future. Examples of involuntary acts include a hypnotized person smashing an ice cream in another person’s face, a sleep walking person breaking into a neighbors’ house and an unanticipated heart attack that affects a bus driver leading to an accident that results in loss of life. Generally, involuntary acts are not punished because they do not result in criminal liability because the acts do not give the person a choice on what course of action to take since they just occur out of consciousness.
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The concept of criminal intent refers to the conscious state of mind to perform a harmful act, which can be constructive, general or specific (Boyes-Watson, 2014). Examples of criminal intents are a person informing another person that s/he is going to kill another person and proceeds to do so, a person breaking into a home and a father leaving a loaded gun in the table and his child picks it and fires at a guest.
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