Actus Reus Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Actus Reus, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Actus Reus?

A wrongful act which is used to indicate an event in which a criminal offense is based.

History and Meaning of Actus Reus

The term "actus reus" originates from the Latin term meaning "guilty act." In the legal context, actus reus consists of any voluntary bodily movement or omission of bodily movement when the law requires it. A crime is committed when an actus reus is committed intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently, and this element is necessary to prove criminal liability.

Examples of Actus Reus

  1. A person who steals a car has committed an actus reus.
  2. A doctor who intentionally prescribes unnecessary drugs that harm the patient has committed an actus reus.
  3. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing a motor vehicle accident will constitute actus reus.
  4. A failure to provide necessities to a dependent, such as medical care, can be considered actus reus.
  5. An employee who embezzles company funds has committed an actus reus.

Legal Terms Similar to Actus Reus

  1. Mens rea: This term refers to the mental intent or knowledge of wrongdoing that is required to establish criminal liability.
  2. Corpus delicti: This term refers to the evidence that proves a crime has been committed.
  3. Causation: This term refers to the relationship between the actus reus and the harm caused. To prove causation, the prosecution must show that the defendant was a substantial factor in causing the harm.