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Series

Notre Dame Law School

2018

Criminal Law

Statutory Interpretation

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Full-Text Articles in Law

"Innocence" And The Guilty Mind, Stephen F. Smith Jan 2018

"Innocence" And The Guilty Mind, Stephen F. Smith

Journal Articles

For decades, the “guilty mind” requirement in federal criminal law has been understood as precluding punishment for “morally blameless” (or “innocent”) conduct, the goal being to define the mental element in terms that will protect offenders from conviction unless they had adequate notice of the wrongfulness of their conduct. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Elonis v. United States signals a significant shift in mens readoctrine, recognizing for the first time the potential for disproportionately severe punishment as a justification for heightened mens rea requirements. This long-overdue doctrinal move makes perfect sense because punishment without culpability and excessive ...