Mens rea captures a simple principle: that a person’s intent when committing a crime should determine the punishment he or she faces for it.
“We shouldn’t have people going to prison for things they wouldn’t necessarily know were illegal and had no knowledge or way to find out that they were.”
— Mark Holden, Koch Industries’ general counsel and prominent conservative advocate for reform
“The fundamental anchor of our criminal law, the moral anchor of our criminal law, is that people shouldn’t be punished unless they know they’re doing something wrong.”
— Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
some Democrats worry that by establishing a default intent standard, Congress would be making it harder for federal prosecutors to bring charges for regulatory offenses that currently lack an intent standard.