Scienter Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Scienter?

(n) Scienter is used to represent the stage of awareness the defendant have about his actions, its illegality, felony at the time of the crime. The Latin word means having knowledge. So if a person take possession of an article by a mistaken identity that it was his own cannot be treated as a criminal activity as he has no knowledge that it was not his property

History and Meaning of Scienter

Scienter is a legal term originating from Latin, meaning "knowingly" or "with knowledge." In the field of law, the term is used to describe the state of mind of a defendant at the time of committing an offense. It refers to the knowledge of a defendant about the criminal or wrongful nature of their actions. In the case of civil law, scienter is used to evaluate the liability of a party for misrepresenting material facts.

Examples of Scienter

  1. A person knowingly cheats on their taxes, hiding away income they have earned. The knowledge that they concealed their income constitutes scienter.
  2. An individual knowingly trades on insider information, fully aware that such conduct is illegal.
  3. A company knowingly conceals health hazards posed by its products, despite knowing that doing so would harm consumers.
  4. A seller knowingly misrepresents the quality of goods they are selling, inducing the buyer to purchase them through fraud.
  5. A person knowingly makes false statements while under oath in court.

Legal Terms Similar to Scienter

  1. Mens rea: This term, which is also derived from Latin, is used to indicate the criminal intent or knowledge of the defendant at the time of the offense.
  2. Negligence: A tort law concept whereby a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or damage to another party.
  3. Willful disregard: This term is used to describe a defendant's knowledge of the potential danger or harm of an action, yet deliberately choosing to ignore it.