A crime needs mens rea, or criminal intent, in addition to actus reus. This is due to the idea that someone should only be punished criminally for an act if they can be held ethically responsible for it. It is generally accepted that if someone performs an act accidentally and without malice, they are not morally responsible and should not face criminal penalties. This legal principle aims to uphold the ideas of personal accountability, deterrence, and punishment that is appropriate for the offense. Because the element of mens rea is crucial to a crime, prosecutors must establish its existence beyond a reasonable question. When mens rea is required, as in the great majority of crimes, it is also necessary to show a concurrent between the criminal intent and the criminal act. This means that the intent must exist at the same time as the act.

Please use the shoplifting statute below to analyze the three factual scenarios that follow the statute.


Shoplifting consists of one or more of the following acts:

willfully taking possession of merchandise with the intention of converting it without paying for it;

willfully concealing merchandise with the intention of converting it without paying for it;

willfully altering a label, price tag or marking upon merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value of it; or

Willfully transferring merchandise from the container in or on which it is displayed to another container with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value of it.

Whoever commits shoplifting when the value of the merchandise shoplifted:

is two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or less is guilty of a petty misdemeanor;

is more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) but not more than five hundred dollars ($500) is guilty of a misdemeanor;


Scenario One

Roger was at the local grocery store and bought $150 worth of groceries. When he returned home, Roger realized he neglected to pay for a 12-pack of beer which he placed in the bottom of the cart.

Facts That Do Not Support the Intent to Shoplift

In this case, it can be argued that Roger showed no intent to shoplift as he had simply neglected to pay for the 12-pack of beer. As it appears, Rogers could have probably paid for the pack of beer had he seen it at the bottom of the cart while paying for the other goods that he had purchased.

Therefore, by applying these facts to the shoplifting statute, Roger did not commit a crime as he did not show intent to shoplift but accidentally did so and should not be held accountable.

Scenario Two

Roger was at the local grocery store and bought $150 worth of groceries. On his way out of the store, he realized that he neglected to pay for a 12-pack of beer which he placed in the bottom of the cart. Roger went up to a store employee near the exit and told her that he forgot to pay for his beer and asked her if he could return it. She laughed and said, "Wow, you're honest! If I were you I would just leave..." She then gave Roger a smile and a wink, and turned to help another customer. After a brief moment, Roger thought, “What the heck - if the store does not care that I forgot to pay for the beer then I guess I should leave.” No one stopped Roger as he went to his car. He packed everything and slowly drove off without an incident.

Facts That Support the Intent to Shoplift

Despite the fact that Roger did opt to go back and pay for his beer that he had forgotten to pay, he showed intent to shoplift by choosing to take the pack of beer home without paying for it as he had been advised by the store employee.

Thus taking these facts into account as far as shoplifting statute is concerned, Roger committed a crime as he willfully took possession of the 12-pack of beer with the intention of taking it home without paying for it.

Scenario Three

Rose has adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) for which she usually takes medication. Rose went shopping at a large chain grocery store and purchased $150 worth of groceries. Rose got distracted because she forgot to take her medication that day and she forgot to pay for approximately $50 worth of meat in her cart before exiting the store. The meat was openly displayed in her shopping cart. The security guard followed Rose into the parking lot as she left the store, and as she finished loading her vehicle, the security guard asked her to come inside the store because he wanted to talk to her.

Rose immediately realized that she had forgotten to pay for the items, apologized, and said she would be happy to go inside the store and pay for them. The security guard told Rose “Don't try to run, or it will make it worse" and "I will need the bags from your car". Rose was extremely upset, but cooperated by retrieving the items from her cart and went back in the store with him. Rose repeatedly told staff throughout this whole incident that she would pay for the items and she had not intended to steal them.

Facts That Do Not Support the Intent to Shoplift

Rose did not show intent to shoplift; on the contrary, she just forgot to pay for the meat that was openly displayed in her shopping cart because she got distracted, a condition that was brought about by her forgetting to take her daily drugs to help with her Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

With regards to all the facts on the shoplifting statute, Rose did not commit a crime. This is since she did not willfully take possession of the meat with the intention of not paying for it as she only did so accidentally based on her Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) ailment. This means that Rose is not morally blameworthy and should not be criminally accountable.


You will use the following three scenarios to identify and analyze inchoate crimes. For the following scenarios, you must decide what inchoate crimes Bob and Dave might be charged with committing.

Scenario One

Bob and Dave are hanging out a Bob’s house, smoking marijuana, when Bob asks Dave to go buy some crystal methamphetamine as he needs a better high. Dave just laughs and says he doesn’t feel like it.

In such a scenario, Bob will be charged with solicitation as an inchoate crime. It does not really matter if his partner refused or if he was not likely to agree, but it is solicitation “just to ask.”

On the other hand, Dave will be guilty of being in possession of illegal drugs. In addition to this, he can be charged criminally just for being near an illegal activity like that of smoking marijuana.

Scenario Two

Bob suggests they watch Breaking Bad DVDs, but Dave states he has already watched the series and it would be boring. Bob then states, "we should go to Wal-Mart and steal some new movies". Dave is not interested, as he is already on probation, and he does not respond to Bob.

In this case, Bob will be charged with attempting to commit burglary as an inchoate crime. Burglary, as the first step to committing another crime, is usually regarded as inchoate since it does disrupt the security of various individuals as far as their personal properties are concerned.

On the other hand, Dave, who has no intentions of carrying out the illegal act of stealing new movies as asked by Bob, will still be guilty of possession as an inchoate crime provided that he has “control” over the act.

Scenario Three

Bob gets pissed off, calls Dave a loser, and takes a swing at Dave’s head with a nearby beer bottle. Dave avoids being hit by the bottle which smashes into the wall leaving a big hole. Bob gets in Dave’s face and tells him he is going to beat the crap out of him unless he drives him to the Wal-Mart. Dave knows Bob has a reputation for beating up people, and being a bit scared and unnerved, he agrees.

Here, Bob will be charged with “threatening to cause great bodily injury” to Dave besides causing Dave to feel “sustained fear.” It does not matter whether the individual making the threats plans of following through. This means that it does not matter if Bob was planning to actually beat Dave up; however, all that matters is that Dave felt threatened by the statements.

Dave will be charged with aiding and abetting Bob to commit a likely crime of beating other people. This is since, any individual who, “in any way, directly or indirectly, aided the perpetrator by acts or encouraged him by words or gestures” can be charged with aiding and abetting.



Skill Exercise Three: Crimes Against Habitation, Property and The Public


Please review the following three scenarios and analyze them for crimes against habitation, property, and the public.

Scenario One

Billy, a 17 year old high school senior, is grounded for a week because of poor grades. Billy, who has been home all week, is bored and decides to take his parents’ car for a joy ride once his parents go to sleep for the night. When he hears his parents snoring, Billy sneaks into their bedroom, takes $50.00 from his mom's wallet and takes the car keys. Billy drives the car down the street and stops at a local gas station. Billy spends the $50.00 on junk food.

After riding around town for 30 minutes, he goes home. What crimes, if any, has Billy committed? Please explain.

Billy has committed a theft crime. A young child stealing money from his or her parents is stealing, and even though various parents have in the past chosen not to prosecute their children, in instances that tend to involve repeat or serious offenses, they have been forced to press charges to a point of prosecution and conviction.

Scenario Two

Denise was shopping in the grocery store one afternoon. As she walked down the aisle, Ken rams her with his shopping cart, knocks her down, grabs her purse and runs off. Is this robbery? Please explain.

Robbery refers to the crime of taking another person’s belonging forcefully with the intention of permanently depriving the very person of that property. The fact that Ken rams Denise down with his shopping cart then runs away with her purse means that his intentions were to forcefully grab the girl’s purse and run away with it places this as a robbery.

Scenario Three

Kelly, as team captain for her soccer team, was in charge of collecting monthly dues to pay for refreshments after each game. On the first day of each month, Kelly would collect about $100 and use the money throughout the month. In August, Kelly over charged her personal credit card and was short on funds to make her credit card payment. Kelly, without informing her teammates, used the funds for the refreshments to pay her personal credit card. Kelly, however, intended to pay back the money but never got around to doing so. Is this embezzlement? Please explain.

Embezzlement is the action of withholding assets for theft purposes by the individuals to whom the assets are assigned, either to be held or to be deployed for various uses. Based on this, one can argue that what Kelly committed was fraudulence because he willfully, and without claims of right or mistakes, did convert the entrusted funds to his own use.

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