What Is Criminal Liability?

We hear the term “criminal liability” a lot in the context of criminal law, but what does it actually mean?

What Does Criminal Liability Mean?

In simplest terms, when you are “criminally liable,” it means you may be held legally responsible for breaking the law. This can be potential or actual responsibility—meaning that you actually committed the crime, or that you are simply suspected of committing it. If the liability is proven in court, you will be held responsible for the crime and sentenced accordingly.

In cases of criminal liability, the government believes you may have committed a criminal act, and the government prosecutes the case in court.

What Determines Criminal Liability?

In most cases (not all), criminal liability hinges on two elements: the actus reus (the actual act or omission that violated the law) and the mens rea (the guilty state of mind, the intention to commit).

In plain English, this means in order to prove that you are criminally liable, the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” not only that you committed the crime, but that you intended to do it. However, certain exceptions exist where “strict liability” is enforced, meaning that you can be held liable for the crime regardless of your intentions. For example, you may be convicted of selling alcohol to a minor whether or not you knew the person’s age.

You can also be ticketed for speeding even though you didn’t know you were exceeding the speed limit. Your experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on whether your alleged offense is a strict liability offense.

Criminal Defense & Appeals Attorney

If you are suspected of or have been indicted for a criminal offense, you need a skilled attorney to represent your interests and to guide you through the nuances of criminal liability. Contact the Federal Criminal Law Center for a free case evaluation today. Our experts are ready to help you reach the best outcome for your case.

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