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Ambiguous Culpability Requirements

This is the second in a series of lessons on culpability requirements under the Model Penal Code (MPC). This lesson, which assumes students are familiar with the basic requirement that every material element have a state of mind, addresses the state of mind that applies to each element when one or more states of mind are contained in an MPC criminal statute. The lesson introduces students to the various types of elements in MPC statutes and to the general rule, found in § 2.02(4), that where a state of mind is specified, it applies to all material elements unless a contrary purpose plainly appears. The lesson affords students the opportunity to practice the default rules relating to states of mind on mock statutes and to learn how the legislature expresses a contrary purpose.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the lesson, students will be able to:
1. Discuss the default rules for interpreting statutes that have ambiguous culpability requirements.
2. Describe the general rule, found in § 2.02(4).
3. Explain that reckless is the minimum culpability if the prescribed state of mind does not extend to a material element.
4. Explain how the legislature expresses a contrary purpose.
5. Apply default rules relating to states of mind.


Lesson Completion Time

35 minutes
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