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Crime and
criminal conduct have been a part of our society since the creation of mankind.

Over the years the rules and laws that govern crime and criminal behavior have
changed and altered to fit with modern society. Mens rea and actus reus are the
main elements of criminal law, with mens rea meaning the mental intentions to
commit a crime and actus reus meaning criminal action. In order to criminally
convict a person mens rea and actus rea have to be proven. Mens rea is the
mental element of a crime it is what goes on in the defendants mind it can be
in the form of direct intention indirect intentions or recklessness. Actus reus
is the physical element of a crime it can be in the form of an act, an omission
or a state of affairs (Moore, 1993).

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 “If an individual does not have the required
mens rea however has engaged in the actus reus then depending on the case or
the circumstances surrounding the case more than likely there is enough room to
convict a person of the said crime. When a perpetrator has the proper mens rea
they have the intention and the knowledge of the crime they have committed. For
example, if an individual plan to murder his friend for sleeping with his
girlfriend then they have the knowledge and the intent to commit the crime” (Martinez,
J.S., 2007).

      According to the New York Times, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a treaty
to which almost every country in the world is a party, provides that diplomats
enjoy immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits in the
countries where they are posted. Diplomatic immunity is vital to protect the
more than 15,000 American diplomats serving in over 150 countries from
political and legal harassment. If American diplomats did not have immunity,
they would be at constant risk of detention and prosecution on trumped-up
charges, especially in countries where the United States is unpopular or where
the government bows to popular pressure. Foreign diplomats and certain
representatives of international organizations serving in the U.S. also enjoy
immunity. Unfortunately, this means that if they commit crimes like driving
while drunk or abusing household workers, they have immunity from prosecution
or lawsuits in U.S. courts. But the federal government is not totally without
recourse. For serious crimes, the State Department may press the foreign
government to waive immunity, and in some cases the foreign government may be
willing to do so. If the foreign government refuses, then the State Department
may ask the government to recall the diplomat, or may expel the diplomat from
the U.S. Legislative
Immunity protects legislators from lawsuits threatening personal liability.  This doctrine does not protect legislators from
criminal prosecution, nor does it relieve them from responsibility for actions
outside the scope of their office (lll Bellinger J.B, 2015).

“Defendants in a criminal
trail must have the ability /competency to understand the charges, to consult
with an attorney and to have a rational grasp on the courtroom proceeding” (Wrightsman,
L., Nietzel, M., & Fortune, W, 1998). This is a requirement and a longstanding fundamental of
criminal law. If a defendant does not appear to be competent the defense, the
prosecution or the judge may order a mental examination by a heath care
professional. After the completion of the evaluation the judge may make a
decision based on the outcome of the evaluation. If the defendant is found
incompetent the defendant will be sent to treatment to help restore competency
and return to trial. I agree with the criminal process on a defendant’s
competency the fact that an individual is found incompetent their charges does
not get dismissed, they are otherwise sent to treatment to help them to be
competent to stand trial.

I think in order for a
person to be charged with a crime it is imperative that they have full
understanding of their charges and be able to effectively communicate with
their attorney in order to defend themselves. 
“Psychologist have researched the issue of competency to stand trial,
developed assessment strategies and implemented treatment approaches to
restores individuals’ overall competence.” Cunningham, M. D., & Goldstein, A. M.

(2003)

“The defendants cognitive
functioning is of central importance in evaluating any form of competence.

Similarly, a defendants’ ability to communicate and mitigating factors
effectively to his or her attorney is essential. Many measures have aided in
the evaluation overall competency. Individuals with mental retardation or
mental illness, juveniles, and people suffering from dementia are at higher
risk of being found incompetent of being sentenced” (Melton,
G. G., Petrila, J., Poythress, N. G., & Slobogin, C, 1997). 

         Four
goals of criminal law are to discourage and deter people from committing
crimes, protect the public from dangerous and harmful people, punish people for
the crimes they commit and also rehabilitate and reform individuals. (Shestokas
D.J., 2012). These goals are put in place to structure a form of deterrence for
the people in our society. When crimes are committed the necessary steps are
taken to prosecute these offenders to the fullest extent of the law and offer
some form of rehabilitation in order to prevent reoffending. Offenders are
given a chance to reform when they are allowed to stay or reenter society. The
goal of incarceration is to penalize and structure future reform and
rehabilitation. According to the deterrence theory people do not commit crimes
because they are afraid of getting caught instead of being motivated by some
deep moral sense. According to the deterrence theory people are more likely to
be dissuaded from committing a crime if the punishment swift, certain and
severe. “Punishment is pointless if prisoners go on to offend again when they
are released. Prison sentences, as all sentences, have to meet the five
purposes of sentencing. Punishment is one, but reducing reoffending is just as
important. Equipping offenders for life after prison is one of the main challenges.

Preparing them to find employment is a known way to reduce the likelihood of
reoffending, as in addressing any social problems they may have including
alcoholism, drug abuse or homelessness.”

“Based on researched
performed by the National Institute of Justice The researchers used a case
comparison method — with a control group and logistic regression analysis —
instead of the “case study” method researchers have used in the past.

A group of 260 cases were identified from across the country where an innocent
defendant was exonerated after conviction. These were matched with 200
“near miss” cases in which an innocent defendant was acquitted or the
charges were dismissed before trial. The researchers identified 10 factors that
led to a wrongful conviction of an innocent defendant instead of a dismissal or
acquittal:

 

·      A younger defendant

·      A criminal history

·      A weak prosecution case

·      Prosecution withheld evidence

·      Lying by a non-eyewitness

·      Unintentional witness misidentification

·      Misinterpreting forensic evidence at trial

·      A weak defense

·      Defendant offered a family witness

·      A “punitive” state culture”

(nil.gov/topics)

  

  In our society, there is always
consequences to our actions unfortunately not everyone cares about facing these
consequences. Therefore, we always have crimes being committed and without the
proven mens rea a lot of innocent people get incarcerated for actus reus. The
goals of the criminal justice system are deterrence they have been working on
trying to implement more laws to strengthen their goal of deterrence but
criminal behaviors and crime is a constant occurrence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

 https://www.nij.gov/topics/justice-system/wrongful-convictions/Pages/predicting-preventing.aspx

 

http://open.justice.gov.uk/reoffending/prisons/

Competency to Be Sentenced

Jenny S. Martinez, Understanding Mens Rea in Command Responsibility from Yamashita to

Blaskic and Beyond, 5 International Criminal Justice 638 (2007).

 

Wrightsman,
L., Nietzel, M., & Fortune, W. Psychology and the Legal System. New
York: Brooks Cole, 1998.

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