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Mens Rea Exception: Strict Liability

Case: People v. Dillard, 154 Cal. App.3d 261 (1984) [p. 178-186]

Facts: Δ found guilty of misdemeanor offense of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place. Δ had
loaned the firearm to his stepfather for hunting, and stepfather forgot to unload it. Δ had loaned it
previously, and stepfather had always unloaded the rifle, and Δ says he didn’t know it was loaded.

Issue: Whether knowledge that the firearm is loaded is an element of the offense of carrying a loaded
firearm in a public place. - no.

Holding: Yes, there needs to be both the act and the intent. However, all that's required is that he knew he
was carrying a firearm in a public place. This statute is really of negligence - where the statute imposes a
duty to make sure that you are not carrying around a loaded firearm. The purpose of the statute was to
minimize danger, and even without knowing he carrying a loaded rifle, it's still dangerous, and Δ had a
duty to make sure it wasn’t loaded. Court also says someone who doesn’t know its loaded can pose an
even greater threat to the public - there was a 75% of the gun going off if it were dropped from Δ's
bicycle. The knowledge necessary under the statute here is that he is carrying a firearm in public, so this
doesn’t violate due process.

Notes:
• Nature of these strict liability statutes - to achieve a social benefit rather than to punish conduct -
like not paying taxes.
• Strict Liability
o Substantive strict liability - liability without moral fault
o Pure strict liability - liability without any culpable mental state with respect to any
objective element
o Impure strict liability - liability without any culpable mental state with respect to at least
one such element
• Strict Liability and the MPC
o § 2.05 - when the state imposes even impure strict liability, the criminal offense may be
punished only as a violation
o § 1.04 - distinguishes a violation from a crime. Violation is an offense punishable only by a
"fine, or fine and forfeiture, or other civil penalty that shall not give rise to any disability or
legal disadvantage based on conviction of a criminal offense."
 Liability is indefensible so you can't punish someone by taking away their freedom
• Formal and substantive strict liability
o MPC - attempts to tie liability to fault by conditioning liability on some level of awareness
of every act, circumstance, and result that defines the actus reus of an offense.