Instead of simply describing to you the readings, I would much rather paint a picture of the need for mens rea and analyze what can occur without it by using the knowledge I have learned from the readings.
It’s important to note that mens rea directly translates from Latin into “guilty mind.”
To begin with, Hi Phi podcast describes mens rea as a state of mind that goes along in a crime. For example, a person may be driving down their road and boom, suddenly they’ve accidentally killed a cat. This was seen by the owners, and is a very terrible experience, but yet they do not blame the driver. Why? The driver was simply driving down the road, and the cat wandered into the path of the vehicle. The driver clearly had no intent in this crime. Sometimes things simply occur.
Now, the opposite picture. A person is intently driving down roads looking for cats to run through, without any care for the health or safety of the cat, or the feelings of others. This evil intent is what determines if mens rea was an active piece of the crime, and if it was the person may be held culpable.
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t this extremely difficult to determine? Shouldn’t a professional not focus on whether there may be some intuitive status afflicting a person’s mind, and just lock them up? Well Hi Phi podcast covers this as well by giving the example of some old laws which did not require mens rea. For example, giving a horse a negative gesture may get you locked up. However, if this were the case now you may be simply mistaken for giving such a gesture because you were talking on the phone arguing with a friend and you just happened to be near a horse whenever you suddenly and passionately yelled out an explicative.
Now the counter argument for mens rea can be seen in the corruption of it’s use, utilitarianism. This more so resembles the modern idea of mens rea within the courtroom. Firstly, utilitarianism is a term which identifies things that are only made to maximize its utility to others. Mens rea simply is an intuitive, if not emotion based feeling, and belongs nowhere near being based in utility, but as professionals often do, it has been changed into a more formulaic approach. Mens rea simply does not belong in this category and must be regarded in it’s own means. With that, it can develop and take a more head strong approach into the criminal justice system that could benefit many, as our prisons and jails fill to maximum capacity without such innovations.