United States v. Cordoba-Hincapie

United States District Court, E.D. New York, 1993.

825 F.Supp. 485.

Dressler, p. 131-132


Rule: A wrongdoer’s state of mind is to be taken into account when deciding whether punishment is appropriate and how much to mete out.


Notes and Questions


1.     Mens rea has a broad meaning and a narrow meaning.  The broad meaning is “guilty mind”.  The narrow meaning is the mental state required to find someone guilty of an offense.  You might have some general kind of guilty mind but still not be found guilty of an offense because you didn’t have the “right type” of guilty mind.

2.     Why do we require a guilty mind or criminal intent?  Why might utilitarians require a guilty mind?  Utilitarians would find it inefficient to punish conduct that cannot be deterred.  If something is done by accident, punishment would only add to societal harm.  Retributivists find it reprehensible to punish the innocent, and one type of innocent person is one who is innocent of criminal intent.  I’m a little confused whether lack of mens rea equals “accident” or “mistake”, or if, on the other hand, mistake is only one possibility among others, or if lack of mens rea implies something altogether different.


Back to Nature of “Mens Rea

Back to Casebook Notes