Difference between revisions of "Actus Reus (Voluntary Act)"

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**Thoughts alone can never be punished as crimes. Lawmakers are hesitant to impose controls on what people may think, and such laws would also present profound problems of proof and enforcement.
 
**Thoughts alone can never be punished as crimes. Lawmakers are hesitant to impose controls on what people may think, and such laws would also present profound problems of proof and enforcement.
 
**Words usually cannot constitute acts. However, depending on the jurisdiction and the crime, an agreement to commit a crime may be enough to constitute conspiracy, and words of encouragement may constitute aiding and abetting a crime.
 
**Words usually cannot constitute acts. However, depending on the jurisdiction and the crime, an agreement to commit a crime may be enough to constitute conspiracy, and words of encouragement may constitute aiding and abetting a crime.
**In most countries, possession does not constitute an act, although it may be criminalized. In some countries, including the United States, possession can constitute an act, such as in the case of knowing possession of illegal narcotics.
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**In most countries, possession holds a unique position, as it does not constitute an act, but may be criminalized. In some countries, however, including the United States, possession has been legally defined as a voluntary act. Possession usually includes only knowing, conscious possession.  
 
**A defendant's status or condition cannot constitute an act. In the United States, the Supreme Court has held that a law making addiction a crime to be an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
 
**A defendant's status or condition cannot constitute an act. In the United States, the Supreme Court has held that a law making addiction a crime to be an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
  
 
== Sources ==
 
== Sources ==
 
Chapter 1, Criminal Law, Emanuel Law Outline, Aspen Publishers, 2000
 
Chapter 1, Criminal Law, Emanuel Law Outline, Aspen Publishers, 2000

Revision as of 10:38, 16 June 2010

'Actus Reus' refers to the requirement that the defendant have carried out a voluntary act. It is important to distinguish such acts from thoughts, words, states of possession, or status; involuntary acts; and omissions.

What Acts Are Not

  • Acts are distinct from thoughts, words, possession and status.
    • Thoughts alone can never be punished as crimes. Lawmakers are hesitant to impose controls on what people may think, and such laws would also present profound problems of proof and enforcement.
    • Words usually cannot constitute acts. However, depending on the jurisdiction and the crime, an agreement to commit a crime may be enough to constitute conspiracy, and words of encouragement may constitute aiding and abetting a crime.
    • In most countries, possession holds a unique position, as it does not constitute an act, but may be criminalized. In some countries, however, including the United States, possession has been legally defined as a voluntary act. Possession usually includes only knowing, conscious possession.
    • A defendant's status or condition cannot constitute an act. In the United States, the Supreme Court has held that a law making addiction a crime to be an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Sources

Chapter 1, Criminal Law, Emanuel Law Outline, Aspen Publishers, 2000