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mens rea

[menz ree-uh] /ˈmɛnz ˈri ə/
noun, Law.
a criminal intent.
1860-65; < New Latin mēns rea Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mens rea
  • One commenter already mentioned mens rea, but the authors of the article did not, in the portion of the article on the website.
  • Everything about his demeanor projected no mens rea-no sense that he had done anything wrong.
  • However, where the required mens rea may not be determined from the statute, moral turpitude does not inhere.
  • He appeals only the attempted battery conviction, contending that the trial court wrongly instructed the jury on mens rea.
British Dictionary definitions for mens rea

mens rea

/ˈmɛnz ˈreɪə/
(law) a criminal intention or knowledge that an act is wrong. It is assumed to be an ingredient of all criminal offences although some minor statutory offences are punishable irrespective of it Compare actus reus
Word Origin
Latin, literally: guilty mind
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Contemporary definitions for mens rea

the intention to commit a wrongful act, the element that establishes criminal responsibility; a criminal mind

Word Origin

Latin 'guilty mind'

Usage Note

law's 21st Century Lexicon
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Word Origin and History for mens rea

Latin phrase meaning "guilty mind."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for mens rea

in Anglo-American law, criminal intent or evil mind. In general, the definition of a criminal offense involves not only an act or omission and its consequences but also the accompanying mental state of the actor. All criminal systems require an element of criminal intent for most crimes. Only Anglo-American systems, however, employ the term mens rea. Countries such as France and Japan simply specify that there must be a criminal intent unless a specific statute directs otherwise.

Learn more about mens rea with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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