Culpable Mental States in Texas

Crimes are composed of two equally necessary elements:

  1. Actus Reus, or the criminal act, and
  2. Mens Rea, the required culpable mental state.

What is Mens Rea?

Let’s take a look at the definitions of the various culpable mental states in Texas criminal law (article provided by Sugar Land, Fort Bend Tx Lawyer D. Lazarine).

What are the culpable mental states in Texas criminal law?

Texas Penal Code 6.03 defines the different culpable mental states:

(a)  A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.

(b)  A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist.  A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.

(c)  A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

(d)  A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

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What do these definitions mean?

6.03(a) deals with an “intentional” mindset.

Proving intent requires proving the offender engaged in the conduct with the conscious desire/objective to do the act or bring about the result of the act.

6.03(b) defines a “knowing” mental state.

To prove a person acted knowingly means proving the offender was aware of his or her conduct or the circumstances and was aware his or her conduct would likely cause the result.

6.03(c) describes a “reckless” mindset.

A person has a “reckless” mental state when he or she is aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk, consciously disregards it, proceeds anyway, and the choice to disregard the risk was a “gross deviation” from how an ordinary person would act.

Finally, 6.03(d) deals with criminal negligence.

A criminally negligent mental state is nearly identical to recklessness; however, instead of being aware of the risk, the offender was not aware of the risk, but should have been.

Article by Sugar Land Attorney D. Lazarine.