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Most crimes consist of 2 basic elements

Since opening its doors in 2005, the Baker Law Firm has provided criminal defense services to thousands of Arizona residents. A big component of our success comes from our belief that it is important for our clients to understand their situations and legal options. Often, this involves a discussion of the basics of a crime. 

According to the overview of criminal law offered by Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, most crimes can be broken down into two basic elements: a criminal act (known as actus reus) and a mental intent to carry out a crime (known as mens rea). In other words, many crimes will require that a defendant engaged in criminal actions that were paired with a culpable mindset. If these elements are not established beyond a reasonable doubt, defendants cannot be convicted of the crimes with which they are charged.

It should be noted that while these two elements are the backbone of many crimes, the LII’s pages on actus reus and mens rea indicate that these are broad legal terms. The actual acts and mental states required for conviction will be described in the statute on that offense. As such, these requirements can vary widely based on which crimes are at issue.  

In addition to establishing the elements of actus reus and mens rea, prosecutors must also convince juries or judges of the existence of all facts required to constitute the crimes with which the defendants are charged.

If you are facing a criminal charge and are looking for information on legal defense services, please visit our page on defense representation.  

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