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Guilty Acts, Guilty Minds

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: eBook
  • Copyright: 2020-07-23
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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When someone commits a crime, what are the limits on a state's authority to define them as worthy of blame, and thus liable to punishment? This book answers that question, building on two ideas familiar to criminal lawyers: actus reus and mens rea, usually translated as "guilty act" and "guilty mind."

In Guilty Acts, Guilty Minds, Stephen P. Garvey proposes an understanding of actus reus and mens rea as limits on the authority of a state, and in particular the authority of a democratic state, to ascribe guilt to those accused of crime. Garvey argues that actus reus and mens rea are necessary conditions for legitimate state punishment. Drawing on the work of political philosophers, moral philosophers, and criminal law theorists, Garvey provides clear explanations of how these concepts apply to a wide variety of cases. The book charges readers to consider practical examples and ask: whatever you believe regarding the justice of the rules, did the state act within the scope of its legitimate authority when it enacted those rules into law?

Based on extensive research, this book presents a new theory in which the concepts of actus reus and mens rea mark the limits of state power rather than simply describe the elements of a crime. Making the compelling distinction between legitimacy and justice, Guilty Acts, Guilty Minds provides an important perspective on the limits of state authority.

Author Biography

Stephen P. Garvey is the A. Robert Noll Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. His scholarly work addresses doctrinal and theoretical questions arising from the substantive criminal law. He is co-author of Criminal Law: Cases and Materials, now in its eighth edition.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 - Authority
I. Anarchism - Rex's Dilemma
A. Criminalization
B. Culpability
C. Punishment
II. Statism - Leviathan's Peace
A. Social Peace
B. Political Peace
III. Democratic Authority
A. A State's Right to Conformity
B. A Democratic State's Authority
IV. Rights
A. Criminalization
B. Punishment
C. Culpability

Chapter 2 - Rights
I. Actus Reus
A. The Conventional Theory
B. The Rights Theory
II. Mens Rea
A. The Conventional Theory
B. The Rights Theory

Chapter 3 - Knowledge
I. Actus Reus
A. The Capacity to Choose Otherwise
B. The Stephen Test
C. Insanity
Ii. Mens Rea
A. Duress Two Ways
B. Provocation
C. The Willing Addict
III. Tracing

Chapter 4 - Ignorance
I. Ignorantia Juris
A. The Maxim's Scope
B. Defending the Maxim
C. "Ignorance" of "Law" Defined
II. Actus Reus
A. The Lex Test
B. Insanity
III. Mens Rea
A. The Jekyll Test
B. Putting Jekyll to Work
IV. Tracing

Chapter 5 - Agency
I. Tradition
II. Irrationality
A. Unintelligibility
B. Delusion
III. Lost Agency
A. The Demon Within
B. Defects of Consciousness
IV. Authority

Chapter 6 - Injustice
I. Revolution
A. The Revolutionary Road
B. After the Revolution
C. Resistance
II. Reform
A. Culpability
B. Standing
III. Authority
A. The State of Exclusion
B. Core Crimes
C. Non-Core Crimes


Supplemental Materials

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