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Actus reus

Actus Reus

In criminal law, Actus Reus consists of the physical element of the crime. It consists of more than just an act; it comprises of all the elements of the offense other than the state of mind of the defendant. In order for a crime to be punishable there must be some form of Actus reus. Actus reus can be categorised as either by conduct, a result, state of affairs or some type of omission.

Conduct: The conduct of the act itself may be criminal. (Theft, perjury, rape, drug possession, carrying a firearm, etc.)

Result: The result of the act caused a criminal offence. In this instance, causation must be established to prove that the action amounted to a crime. (Battery, assault, murder, manslaughter, etc.)

State of Affairs: In this type of crime, the Actus reus consists of what the defendant was "being" and not necessarily what they were "doing". For example, being drunk while behind the wheel.

Omission: This can only occasionally amount to Actus reus. Generally, there is no liability for failing to act but there are exceptions:

  • 1. Statutory Duty
  • 2. Contractual Duty
  • 3. Legal Duty
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