MPC default mens rea rules

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truevines
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MPC default mens rea rules

Postby truevines » Sun Apr 18, 2010 2:40 am

Hi,
I am confused. Please help me out. Thank you very much.

MPC mens rea default rules:
1) if unspecified, it requires recklessness or higher.
2) When the law defining an offense prescribes the kind of culpability that is sufficient for the commission of an offense, without distinguishing among the material elements thereof, such provision shall apply to all the material elements of the offense, unless a contrary purpose plainly appears. (distribution rule)

Here is the hypo:
Burglary is entering into a building without consent, with the intent to commit a theft offense therein.
What is the mens rea with respect to "entering?"

Answer A:
Because the statute does not explicitly prescribe the mental state for "entering," recklessness or higher is sufficient.

Answer B: Because the statute has a specific intent, this mental state must apply to all material elements, including "entering." Therefore, the mental state required for "entering" is "intent" or purpose.

Which is correct?

(When my professor talked about this hypo, he introduced both answers. But he did not say which was correct.)

Thank you very much.

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PSLaplace
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Re: MPC default mens rea rules

Postby PSLaplace » Sun Apr 18, 2010 3:39 am

I imagine it's the former (recklessness).

The fact that the legislature placed the mens rea term after certain elements and before others certainly indicates a contrary purpose. Generally, the "distribution rule" applies where there is only one mens rea term and it precedes all material elements of the offense.

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tome
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Re: MPC default mens rea rules

Postby tome » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:38 am

PSLaplace wrote:I imagine it's the former (recklessness).

The fact that the legislature placed the mens rea term after certain elements and before others certainly indicates a contrary purpose. Generally, the "distribution rule" applies where there is only one mens rea term and it precedes all material elements of the offense.


Yeah, I think this is the better answer. But maybe your professor brought it up to illustrate that it is not inconceivable to go the other way. A bit of a stretch, but there is an argument to be made there--particularly on an exam.

Renzo
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Re: MPC default mens rea rules

Postby Renzo » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:20 pm

PSLaplace wrote:I imagine it's the former (recklessness).

The fact that the legislature placed the mens rea term after certain elements and before others certainly indicates a contrary purpose. Generally, the "distribution rule" applies where there is only one mens rea term and it precedes all material elements of the offense.


This is right. The comments to the MPC say:
If the statute contains a mens rea term that clearly applies to several elements—for example, if the adverb “purposely” or “knowingly” precedes “causes the death of a police officer” or “receives stolen property”—then that initial term “travels” through the several elements, applying to all.

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BunkMoreland
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Re: MPC default mens rea rules

Postby BunkMoreland » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:56 pm

I think maybe in practice you can argue either, but for an exam you'd be fine with the above answers.


if you can think of it in math terms it may be easier:

Mens Rea (term 1 + term 2 + term 3) = distribute mens rea throughout

vs.

(term 1+ term 2 + mens rea (term 3)) would only apply to term 3 and default to recklessness for term 1 and term 2.


At least, I think. :)




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