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Impossible Attempts and Mens Rea

This page contains resources to introduce the criminal law in general, and the specific topics raised by the readings: mens rea (Hampton) and impossible attempts (Katz, Bad Acts & Guilty Minds: Conundrums of Criminal Law). 

Mens Rea

ACTUS REUS AND MENS REA part of the criminal law resources at Lexis/

mens rea from xrefer, the web's reference engine, provides a definition and helpful set of links to related words [xrefer provides free access to the world's largest collection of encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and quotations.]

What's the proper mens rea for rape? Is it a strict liability offense that does not require a mental element, or is it a defense to rape that there was a reason to believe in consent? (Morgan told his friends that his wife was "kinky'' and not to be surprised if she struggled.)


Criminal Law Overview of criminal law Criminal law mainpage. Subtopics include: understanding the degree of guilt, how mental states affect responsibility

Brief overview of criminal liability

 The Jurist: The Law Professors’ Network: Law Subject Guide to Criminal Law  

Scan the online law reviews

Law Dictionary

Legal Reference Desk

Attempts & Impossible Attempts

Use the links on criminal law to find out more information about attempts. 

Impossibility, Subjective Probability, and Punishment for Attempts The purpose of this note is to argue that it is crucial, in analyzing the question of punishment for impossible attempts, to consider the subjective probabilities of the offender--his beliefs as to what methods of committing the crime work. Obviously, if the offender knows that the method he is using will not work, he will not use it--or, if he does, he is not in fact attempting to commit the crime. The important case is the one where the court knows that the method is impossible but the offender does not. If the offender is aware of his own ignorance and rationally allows for it in his decision, then, as we will see, punishing impossible attempts does in fact deter offenses. If, on the other hand, the offender believes that he has perfect knowledge about what methods work, but is wrong, then punishing impossible attempts serves no function.

Legal Theory

The heading ‘legal theory’ accesses many resources that discuss the relationship of law to race and gender. Legal Theory  

The Jurist: The Law Professors’ Network: 

There are some current questions about a variation on impossible attempts in the form of people who sent hoax anthrax letters after Sept 11 (some of the people receiving letters thought their life was in danger, although the senders intended it as a harmless joke): Envelopes Full of Legal Controversy: Anthrax Hoax Cases Stir Debate on Rights And Responsibilities. has a collection of the actual complaints filed against individuals in Anthrax hoax and related cases

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