actus reus

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Borrowed from Late Latin actus reus (guilty act), from Latin āctus (act) + reus (guilty); after Late Latin and English mens rea.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌaktəsˈɹeɪəs/, /ˌaktəsˈɹiːəs/


actus reus (plural actus rei)

  1. (law) An act, or series of acts, considered as separate from the intentions or state of mind of the perpetrator in the context of criminal law. [from 20th c.]
    • 1989, James B. Jacobs, Drunk Driving: An American Dilemma, University of Chicago Press, page 65,
      It is hornbook criminal law that criminal offenses are defined in terms of an actus reus (criminal act) and a mens rea (criminal mind).
    • 2011, Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Penguin 2012, page 610:
      A brute emotional reflex to the actus reus, the bad act (‘She killed her husband! Shame!’), could trigger an urge for retribution regardless of her intention.
    • 2016, Nicola Monaghan, Criminal Law, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press, page 23,
      Every criminal offence must contain actus reus elements. A defendant will not be liable for a criminal offence unless the actus reus of the offence is proved: Deller (1952)36 Cr app r 184. Although the vast majority of criminal offences consist of both actus reus elements and mens rea elements, some criminal offences do not require a mens rea element for every element of the actus reus.

Usage notes[edit]

Often, perhaps usually, italicised.

Coordinate terms[edit]