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 The rule that a criminal offense exists at the intersection of a guilty act and a guilty mind is commonly viewed as the bedrock of criminal common law. Over two centuries ago, Blackstone wrote, '[T]o constitute a crime against human laws, there must first be a vicious will, and secondly an unlawful act consequent upon such a vicious will.' 4 Comm. 21. A century and a half later Bishop affirmed: 'There can be no crime large or small without an evil mind.' 1 Bishop, Criminal Law (9th ed.1930) § 287. See also Morissette, 342 U.S. at 250, 72 S.Ct. at 243 ('The contention that an injury can amount to a crime only when inflicted by intention is no provincial or transient notion. It is as universal and persistent in mature systems of law as belief in freedom of the human will and a consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil.').


Yet throughout our common law history, a parallel tradition has allowed imposition of penalties without formal proof of criminal intent. An early version of strict liability, the law of deodands, has been traced back to early Western history. A ...

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