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The Mens Rea of Negligence

This lesson examines the mental state of negligence as set forth in the Model Penal Code. In particular, the lesson presents some material on the rationale for punishing at negligence level (or not), as well as examining the concept of "failure to perceive." Finally, the lesson examines the nature of the risk at issue in negligence, drawing particular attention to the Code terms "substantial" and "unjustifiable," and to the simultaneously subjective and objective aspects of the Code's definition of that risk.

Learning Outcomes
On completion of the lesson, students will be able to:
1. Define "mens rea of negligence" under the Model Penal Code.
2. List the two components of the MPC’s definition of mens rea of negligence.
3. Analyze the concept of "failure to perceive" a risk that should have been perceived.
4. Express the rationale for imposing punishment only rarely on an actor whose mental state involves no more than the failure to perceive a risk.
5. Explain the nature of the risk at issue in negligence, including the Code terms "substantial" and "unjustifiable."
6. Differentiate between the MPC’s objective and subjective perspectives to evaluate an actor’s risky behavior.

Lesson Completion Time

20 minutes
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