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The Model Penal Code Mental States: Knowingly

The Model Penal Code, or MPC, has been praised by lawyers, judges, and juries across the country for supplying very concise, uncomplicated definitions of what each mental state means when applied in a crime. Prior to the MPC’s adoption by many jurisdictions, judges and juries were, for the most part, left to their own devices to figure out what the requisite mental state for a crime was and what exactly that meant.

The MPC came in and change all of that with its very precise definitions. The second strictest level of acting in the MPC is “knowingly.” Knowingly is located just below “purposefully” or “purposely” on the scale of mental states, with purposefully being the strongest and negligently being the weakest.

A person is said to act “knowingly” with respect to a material element of an offense if, when he or she acts, the actions indicate that the individual is aware that his or her conduct is of the nature described by the material element or that circumstances reflected in the material elements of a crime exist.

If the element of a crime that it is required an individual act knowingly for is a result of an action, the individual that acts must be practically certain that his or her conduct will result in the result required.

As an example, Person A hates his wife but loves his son. His wife is holding their son in the driveway. He, because he hates his wife, decides to kill her with the car. Unfortunately, he realizes that there is a very good chance his son will be killed as well since his wife is holding him. If the son dies, he acted knowingly.

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