The Death of the Mens Rea Requirement Via “Public Welfare” Offenses

Case in Point: Florida v. Adkins. In 2012, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s drug law, which does not require the prosecution to establish criminal intent, is constitutional. What other result could be expected when “possession” and drug offenses exist? Crimes not requiring an actual or intended harm to another person for their commission only require a certain criminal intent or mens rea as a fig leaf. The mens rea for those crimes is hollowed out completely by their very nature; there is no tangible harm required. It necessarily follows that states such as Florida will then attempt to eliminate a mens rea requirement altogether and make the crimes purely strict liability.

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