This lesson will teach you what constitutes a strict liability crime. Review the definition of strict liability and examine the various types of strict liability crimes. Then, look at some examples to gain a better understanding of this type of crime.
What Are Strict Liability Crimes?
Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket and thought ‘that’s not fair’ because you were not paying attention and had no idea you were actually speeding? In other words, you had no intention of speeding, and it was a total accident.
This type of offense is known as a strict liability crime.Strict liability crimes do not require any mens rea, or being in the mental state to commit a crime, during the commission of a crime. In these crimes, simply doing the act, even if you had no intention to break the law, makes you guilty of the crime. Therefore, you will be held responsible for committing a crime no matter what, just because you committed the act.
Every jurisdiction is different with respect to what types of crimes they consider to be strict liability crimes. However, generally, the following crimes are treated as strict liability crimes:
- Traffic offenses
- Statutory rape
- Possession of narcotics
- Selling alcohol to a minor
Let’s look at some examples in order to gain a better understanding of strict liability crimes. Imagine that Jim is driving at 50 miles per hour in a school zone which is marked with signs that read 15 miles per hour. Jim is in no hurry and doesn’t mean to speed, but he is listening to a book on CD and paying no attention to the posted speed limit. This is a violation of the law and is typically treated as a strict liability crime.
It does not matter that Jim had no intention to break the speed limit; the fact is that he exceeded the posted speed limit and broke the law.Now, imagine that Alan and Bonnie are in a relationship. Alan is 22 and Bonnie is 17. The two engage in sexual intercourse. The jurisdiction has a statute that indicates that statutory rape occurs when one adult has sexual intercourse with an individual under the age of legal consent (in this case, 18). In this instance, there is no mental state required, and it does not matter if Alan knew that Bonnie was a minor or not.
The fact that Bonnie was under the age of legal consent and Alan engaged in sexual intercourse with her was sufficient to constitute statutory rape.
Let’s review. Strict liability crimes are crimes which do not require any mental state for one to be considered guilty of the crime. One simply has to commit the act of the crime in order to be found guilty.
It does not matter what the offender’s intention was when he broke the law.