Monday, March 18, 2013
The general intent crime, often called a malum in se offense, such as arson, is one in which the voluntary act e.g. setting a fire, subjects the perpetrator to criminal liability, although he or she may have had no specific intent to do the damage that resulted. General intent crimes have their roots in the common law, which presume that certain acts are morally offensive and, therefore, carry a presumption that the perpetrator intended the harmful results. The 3rd category of crimes is a malum prohibitum i.e. the strict liability crime. These offenses involve acts that required no accompanying culpable mental state to be proved. With such offenses, criminal liability attaches, not because the acts are inherently wrong, but in order to protect the public welfare. Strict liability cannot be presumed. The United States Supreme Court has held that strict or absolute liability crimes can pass constitutional muster. According to the court, it cannot be presumed that there is no mens rea element to a defined crime simply because the Legislature has omitted reference to intent from the statute. Mens rea may survive strict liability. Even in the face of an onslaught of constitutional attacks, many courts have upheld the authority of the Legislature to declare drunk driving a strict liability crime. However, a number of state appellate courts of recognize that some mens rea is an element of every crime, absent a specific expression of legislative intent to remove that element from the corpus delicti of the charge. The Colorado Supreme Court for example has held that the mens rea of drunk driving is the voluntary act of drinking alcohol and subsequently operating a motor vehicle.Contact an Atlanta DUI lawyer today to discuss your rights and any possible DUI defenses you may have.