What is a strict liability? In today’s criminal justice system, a defendant is usually punished only when they have the requisite men’s rea which is a Latin phrase for the guilty mind. In other words, the system will not punish those that are not morally corrupt or blameworthy. If you intentionally break the law, you are seen as having the mindset of having a guilty mind. But, there are a handful of crimes that do not require a men’s rea. These crimes are called strict liability crimes.
What is a strict liability crime? As stated, a strict liability crime is a crime that requires no men’s rea. That is, they are crimes that don’t require you to intend to do something wrong or morally blameworthy. In these case, you are held responsible regardless of your intentions. Even though a defendant does not have the guilty mind that usually makes the criminal morally blameworthy and responsible for his/her actions.
Examples of Strict Liability Crimes: The concept of a strict crime can hard to understand. While it may seem unfair to criminally punish a defendant for making an honest mistake. The legislature believes that strict liability application benefits society which outweighs the cost of punishing a defendant who appears to be without blame. The following are some examples:
Statutory Rape laws make it illegal for anyone to have sexual intercourse with a minor. This is a strict liability crime because even if the defendant believed the victim was of legal, consenting age he/she is guilty nevertheless. In other words, the defendant does not have to have the intent to have sexual intercourse with a minor; his/her mindset doesn’t matter.
Selling alcohol to a minor is a strict liability crime because a person who sells alcohol to a minor can be convicted even if he/she believed the minor was old enough to buy alcohol.
Traffic Offenses are usually strict liability crimes. For example, if you get a speeding ticket and you reasonably believe you were driving within the speed limit, strict liability applies.
“Strict liability” makes the above type cases much more difficult to defend. As unfair as this may sound, it is the law in Pennsylvania. Marinaro Law has proved track record to successfully resolve a case that falls into this description of strict liability based upon negotiations. Our lawyers are very experienced in criminal law and shall advise you of your rights and defenses.