CORE CRIMINAL LAW SUBJECTS: Crimes: Generally

2015 (September Term)

United States v. Caldwell, 75 M.J. 276 (it is a fundamental principle of criminal law that wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal; this does not mean that an accused must know that his actions constitute criminal conduct; rather, an accused must have knowledge of the facts that make his conduct fit the definition of the offense). 

(the general rule is that a guilty mind is a necessary element in the charge sheet and proof of every crime). 

(even when a mens rea (guilty mind) requirement is not explicitly included in a criminal statute, that does not necessarily mean that such a requirement can be dispensed with; rather, generally speaking, criminal statutes should be interpreted by courts as still including broadly applicable mens rea requirements, even where the statute does not contain them). 

(an inference of a mens rea requirement by a court is not merited when there is an indication of congressional intent to the contrary). 

(in inferring a mens rea requirement in a statute that is otherwise silent, courts must only read into the statute that mens rea which is necessary to separate wrongful conduct from innocent conduct).    

(in some instances, the mere requirement in a statute that a defendant commit an act with knowledge of certain facts — i.e., that the defendant possessed general intent — is enough to ensure that innocent conduct can be separated from wrongful conduct). 

(general intent requires knowledge with respect to the actus reus of the crime). 


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