crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

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shmoo597
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crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby shmoo597 » Sat May 01, 2010 11:49 pm

Under the MPC, if you can't conform your actions to lawful conduct, you can claim the insanity defense - that you did not have the requisite mens rea for the crime. Under M’Naghten, if you don't know the character of your actions, you like wise do not have the requite mens rea.

BUT if you can't conform your actions or know what you are doing, that also sounds like your act was not voluntary, which would negate the actus reus. If you can't control yourself, how is that any different then a seizure?

So, my question: If a defendant was insane, can they claim that they did not have the adequate mens rea by reason of insanity, AND that their act was not voluntary? One affirmative defense, and the other attacking one of the elements of the crime?

Thanks

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MrKappus
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby MrKappus » Sun May 02, 2010 12:01 am

From my understanding, it is almost impossible to act involuntarily, b/c the nature of the word "act" means you've acted. Insanity is relevant to "intent," but very few D's will not know the character of their actions, so even if an insane person thinks they're killing a giant purple dragon that's dressed like his/her friend, he/she still was aware of the character of the action (i.e., killing something).

We didn't really focus on the MPC, so I could be wrong. Also, I did not CALI crim law, so caveat lector.

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vanwinkle
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby vanwinkle » Sun May 02, 2010 12:16 am

These are from my last semester notes, make of them what you will:

The act must be voluntary; “voluntary act” must arise from an exercise of will; an exercise of will is voluntary, but can be excused by other means (insanity, duress)

Accepted as involuntary: Physically coerced movement (A pushes B into C), Reflex movements (reaction after attacked by a swarm of bees), Muscular contraction or paralysis produced by disease (“a person who has no control over his or her limbs cannot be said to act voluntarily”), Unconsciousness (coma, sleep, etc)

"Voluntary act" seems to just mean an act that was a result of a mental process of yours. If it's the result of an insane mental process, that's still "voluntary" in this sense, it's still an exercise of will (even if it's an insane will). "Involuntary" means a complete and total lack of control of your own body, essentially, under the "voluntary act" doctrine.

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rayiner
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby rayiner » Sun May 02, 2010 12:27 am

The actus reus refers to objective physical action. It looks at the level of synapses firing and muscular movements. So an insane person acts voluntarily in the sense that the higher levels of the brain make a decision, and send a signal to pull the trigger and his muscles carry out the actions, etc. Mens rea refers to subjective culpability, and insanity excuses that part. The insane person's brain might have caused that physical action, but it's wired wrong so we need to punish him differently. This is different from truly involuntary actions, because in such actions there is no judgement being made, the conscious brain isn't involved.

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macattaq
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby macattaq » Sun May 02, 2010 12:31 am

IIRC correctly, insanity negates neither AR nor MR. Rather, the insanity defense is a complete defense, and is an excuse for the actions of the defendant. The defendant still admits culpability, but that culpability is counterbalanced by a general policy of not levying traditional punishment against the severely mentally infirm.

engineer
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby engineer » Sun May 02, 2010 1:25 am

macattaq and rayiner are both credited here.

The actus reus component is always present--it can be pretty objective (for example, a security camera video tapes you pulling the trigger). Absent of some Lincoln-Burrows-Prison-Break magic, it's clear that the actus reus component is established. Mens rea is used to establish criminal culpability, and it gets into the actor's mind--questions of intent and whatnot are raised.

Regarding voluntary and involuntary acts, a voluntary act is something over which you've exercised control. Your consciousness has instructed your muscles to move. Let's say that someone pretends to punch you in the face and you flinch--flinching is an involuntary act, because it's something that just happens.

Problems between voluntary/involuntary arise, because there's no clear-cut, objective test for determining with the utmost certainty whether an action is voluntary or involuntary. For example, when I brush my teeth, I *always* start with the bottom half on my right side. Always. I know the act of brushing my teeth is voluntary, but did I voluntarily choose to start there? What about people like Jason Bourne, who are 'programmed' to kill?
Last edited by engineer on Sun May 02, 2010 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MrKappus
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby MrKappus » Sun May 02, 2010 1:46 am

engineer wrote:macattaq and rayiner are both credited here.

The actus reus component is always present--it can be pretty objective (for example, a security camera video tapes you pulling the trigger). Absent of some Lincoln-Burrows-Prison-Break magic, it's clear that the actus reus component is established. Mens rea is used to establish criminal culpability, and it gets into the actor's mind--questions of intent and whatnot are raised.

Regarding voluntary and involuntary acts, a voluntary act is something over which you've exercised control. Your consciousness has instructed your muscles to move. Let's say that someone pretends to punch you in the face and you flinch--flinching is an involuntary act, because it's something that just happens.

Problems between voluntary/involuntary arise, because there's no clear-cut, objective test for determining with the utmost certainty whether an action is voluntary or involuntary. For example, when I brush my teeth, I *always* start with the bottom half on my right side. Always. I know the act of brushing my teeth is voluntary, but did I voluntarily choose to start there? What people like Jason Bourne, who are 'programmed' to kill?


What does this hornbook-pasting have to do w/ insanity?

engineer
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby engineer » Sun May 02, 2010 1:53 am

MrKappus wrote:
engineer wrote:macattaq and rayiner are both credited here.

The actus reus component is always present--it can be pretty objective (for example, a security camera video tapes you pulling the trigger). Absent of some Lincoln-Burrows-Prison-Break magic, it's clear that the actus reus component is established. Mens rea is used to establish criminal culpability, and it gets into the actor's mind--questions of intent and whatnot are raised.

Regarding voluntary and involuntary acts, a voluntary act is something over which you've exercised control. Your consciousness has instructed your muscles to move. Let's say that someone pretends to punch you in the face and you flinch--flinching is an involuntary act, because it's something that just happens.

Problems between voluntary/involuntary arise, because there's no clear-cut, objective test for determining with the utmost certainty whether an action is voluntary or involuntary. For example, when I brush my teeth, I *always* start with the bottom half on my right side. Always. I know the act of brushing my teeth is voluntary, but did I voluntarily choose to start there? What people like Jason Bourne, who are 'programmed' to kill?


What does this hornbook-pasting have to do w/ insanity?


First, it's not hornbook pasting. Second, insanity, actus reus, mens rea, and involuntary/voluntary actions are all inextricably related.

EDIT: by the way, why even bother posting if you flat out admitted to not doing well in the class?

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MrKappus
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby MrKappus » Sun May 02, 2010 1:58 am

engineer wrote:
MrKappus wrote:
engineer wrote:macattaq and rayiner are both credited here.

The actus reus component is always present--it can be pretty objective (for example, a security camera video tapes you pulling the trigger). Absent of some Lincoln-Burrows-Prison-Break magic, it's clear that the actus reus component is established. Mens rea is used to establish criminal culpability, and it gets into the actor's mind--questions of intent and whatnot are raised.

Regarding voluntary and involuntary acts, a voluntary act is something over which you've exercised control. Your consciousness has instructed your muscles to move. Let's say that someone pretends to punch you in the face and you flinch--flinching is an involuntary act, because it's something that just happens.

Problems between voluntary/involuntary arise, because there's no clear-cut, objective test for determining with the utmost certainty whether an action is voluntary or involuntary. For example, when I brush my teeth, I *always* start with the bottom half on my right side. Always. I know the act of brushing my teeth is voluntary, but did I voluntarily choose to start there? What people like Jason Bourne, who are 'programmed' to kill?


What does this hornbook-pasting have to do w/ insanity?


First, it's not hornbook pasting. Second, insanity, actus reus, mens rea, and involuntary/voluntary actions are all inextricably related.

EDIT: by the way, why even bother posting if you flat out admitted to not doing well in the class?


Not CALIing /=/ "Not doing well in the class." RC fail.

Involuntary acts have nothing to do w/ an insanity defense. Insanity is about criminal intent. I'm glad you got the chance to pontificate about the nature of voluntary/involuntary acts, but it had nothing to do w/ OP's question.

engineer
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby engineer » Sun May 02, 2010 2:04 am

MrKappus wrote:Involuntary acts have nothing to do w/ an insanity defense. Insanity is about criminal intent. I'm glad you got the chance to pontificate about the nature of voluntary/involuntary acts, but it had nothing to do w/ OP's question.


Hey jackass, you clearly implied that you're not the authority to ask regarding crim law, so why not leave it to people who actually know what they're talking about? Appending "caveat lector" to your argument sure bolsters your credibility. Moreover, these concepts are all linked, so if OP had a problem with the insanity defense, then it probably wouldn't hurt to talk about related topics, right?

Jesus, some of your people need to loosen up a bit. Try smoking weed.

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MrKappus
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby MrKappus » Sun May 02, 2010 2:05 am

engineer wrote:
MrKappus wrote:Involuntary acts have nothing to do w/ an insanity defense. Insanity is about criminal intent. I'm glad you got the chance to pontificate about the nature of voluntary/involuntary acts, but it had nothing to do w/ OP's question.


Hey jackass, you clearly implied that you're not the authority to ask regarding crim law, so why not leave it to people who actually know what they're talking about? Appending "caveat lector" to your argument sure bolsters your credibility. Moreover, these concepts are all linked, so if OP had a problem with the insanity defense, then it probably wouldn't hurt to talk about related topics, right?

Jesus, some of your people need to loosen up a bit. Try smoking weed.


Yes. You are clearly one laid back dude.

absworkoutplan
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby absworkoutplan » Sun May 02, 2010 4:19 am

I wish I had read this (the thread didn't exist, but you know) before my all multiple choice crim final last Tuesday. I bombed it hard, but I according to the analysis here I definitely fucked up in my understanding of insanity lol.

shmoo597
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby shmoo597 » Sun May 02, 2010 5:08 am

Ok thanks for the input everyone.

Firstly - yes, insanity is an excuse that excuses the mens rea - it doesn't negate it. Thanks for pointing that out.

Secondly, I think I am pretty clear now on what makes an act involuntary now...even though I think the distinction is kind of annoying. It seems strange to accept that an act that you are incapable of conforming to lawful conduct or of which you are unaware of as it is happening is voluntary, but I guess if you define involuntary as those which are basically reflexive only, it make sense.

VandyTakingQuestions
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby VandyTakingQuestions » Sun May 02, 2010 8:49 am

shmoo597 wrote:Ok thanks for the input everyone.

Firstly - yes, insanity is an excuse that excuses the mens rea - it doesn't negate it. Thanks for pointing that out.

Secondly, I think I am pretty clear now on what makes an act involuntary now...even though I think the distinction is kind of annoying. It seems strange to accept that an act that you are incapable of conforming to lawful conduct or of which you are unaware of as it is happening is voluntary, but I guess if you define involuntary as those which are basically reflexive only, it make sense.


Actually it can be used to negate mens rea. In addition to an affirmative defense, insanity can:
a) D may be deemed incompetent to stand trial if disease prevents him from cooperating with him attorneys (matters at the time of trial, not at the time of crime)
b) A convicted person who becomes insane may be transferred to mental institution ("MI")
c) Criminals sentenced to CP cannot be executed if a mental illness disables them from appreciating the connection between imminent punishment and crime
d) Affects Plea bargains
e) Mitigates punishment after conviction
f) Negates R+ elements, attack MR. Couldn't form intent.

We did two days on insanity and actually had a panel of prosecutors and experts come in to talk about it. They said insanity is usually used more of a way to negate mens rea rather than an affirmative defense because juries are often wary of insanity claims.

Different professors teach the same class differently. I've come across stuff in E&Es and other commercial materials that were different or additional to what the Prof was teaching. If your Prof didn't teach that insanity was a way to negate mens rea then I probably wouldn't analyze that way on an exam.

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dbt
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Re: crim law - does insanity negates mens rea AND actus reus?

Postby dbt » Sun May 02, 2010 12:47 pm

Negation of the actus reus would result in insanity not being an excuse at all. Where there is no actus reus there is no criminal liability at all.

Insanity under the MPC may be brought in to negate mens rea only.




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