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NCJ Number: 68420 Find in a Library
Title: IS MENS REA A COMPONENT OF PERCEIVED OFFENSE SERIOUSNESS?
Journal: JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW AND CRIMINOLOGY  Volume:71  Issue:2  Dated:(SUMMER 1980)  Pages:124-135
Author(s): L SEBBA
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 12
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE ARTICLE ADDRESSES THE QUESTION OF THE EXTENT TO WHICH OFFENSE DESCRIPTIONS USED IN EVOLVING A SERIOUSNESS SCALE SHOULD TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THE MENTAL ATTITUDE OF THE OFFENDER AT THE TIME OF COMMISSION.
Abstract: A REVIEW OF EARLIER STUDIES OF THE MENS REA COMPONENT INDICATES THAT, APART FROM THE RIEDEL STUDY, THERE IS LITTLE DIRECT EVIDENCE ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NONPHYSICAL ASPECTS OF THE OFFENSE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A SEVERITY SCALE. THIS STUDY WAS DESIGNED TO REEXAMINE THE RELEVANCE OF THE MENTAL ELEMENT IN THE PERCEIVED SERIOUSNESS OF OFFENSES. UNLIKE RIEDEL'S, THIS STUDY EMPHASIZED THE LEGAL COMPONENTS OF THE OFFENSE ITSELF, DIFFERENTIATING NOT ONLY BETWEEN THE MENTAL AND THE PHYSICAL ELEMENTS, BUT ALSO BETWEEN THE VARIOUS GRADATIONS OF THE MENTAL ELEMENT. THE FOUR LEVELS OF THE MENTAL STATE OF WHICH CRIMINAL LAW TAKES COGNIZANCE ARE DESCRIBED. THE STUDY UTILIZED A QUESTIONNAIRE OF 80 ITEMS, WHICH INCLUDED 4 FORMULATIONS OF THE OFFENSE EACH WITH A MENTAL ELEMENT OF DIFFERENT GRAVITY. THE OFFENSES USED WERE WOUNDING, HOMICIDE, ARSON, AND THE SALE OF ADULTERATED GOODS. RESPONDENTS WERE 91 STUDENTS ATTENDING COURSES IN THE SOCIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY. THREE HYPOTHESES WERE TESTED. THE FIRST WAS THAT RESPONDENTS WOULD ATTRIBUTE GREATER SERIOUSNESS TO PROHIBITED ACTS COMMITTED WITH A HIGHER LEVEL OF MENTAL ELEMENT THAN TO THE SAME ACTS COMMITTED WITH A LOWER LEVEL OF MENTAL ELEMENT. THE SECOND WAS THAT, WHERE NO MENTAL ELEMENT WAS SPECIFIED IN THE OFFENSE FORMULATION, RESPONDENTS WOULD ATTRIBUTE INTENTIONALITY. THE THIRD WAS THAT THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE PHYSICAL ACT CONSTITUTES AN INDEPENDENT COMPONENT IN THE JUDGMENT OF OFFENSE SERIOUSNESS. FINDINGS SHOWED THAT THE FORM OF MENTAL ELEMENT ACCOMPANYING THE OFFENSE HAS A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON THE ESTIMATION OF OFFENSE SERIOUSNESS, THAT WHERE NO MENTAL ELEMENT IS SPECIFIED RESPONDENTS GENERALLY ATTRIBUTE INTENTIONALITY TO THE PERPETRATOR OF THE OFFENSE, AND THE DEGREE OF HARM INFLICTED HAS A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON THE ESTIMATION OF OFFENSE SERIOUSNESS. NOTES AND APPROXIMATELY 15 REFERENCES AND TABLES ARE PROVIDED.
Index Term(s): Career criminal programs; Crime seriousness measures; Criminal intent; Criminal responsibility; Offender classification; Offense classification; Pennsylvania; Personality assessment; Professional criminals; Psychological evaluation; Recidivism
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=68420

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