Prosecutors utilize the elements of a crime to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty of wrongdoing. This seemingly complex terminology is the basis for a significant portion of our criminal system. 

Even given its importance, people misunderstand this concept, especially when it is within the context of legal jargon. So, for the layman, our specialists at Piotrowski Law are here with a quick, straightforward explanation of criminal elements, why it matters, and how to recognize them.

What Are the Elements of a Crime?

The elements of a crime are typically broken down into three components:

Actus Reus (Proof That a Crime Has Occurred)

This construct is, essentially, the physical, voluntary act of a crime. 

Another form of actus reus includes failing to prevent harm when the other party was capable of doing so, or omission. The law also designates this term for cases of neglect (e.g. leaving a baby in a car). 

Keeping that in mind, there are situations where someone may have committed a crime due to nonvoluntary actions of their own, where actus reus cannot be proven. An example of this situation would be someone accidentally harming another due to sleepwalking. 

Mens Rea (Criminal Intent)

conspiracy criminal defense lawyer

Translating to “guilty mind” in Latin, mens rea refers to the state of mind and intent of the defendant while committing a crime. In the case of a grocery store robbery, prosecutors could prove mens rea if they presented evidence showing the defendant stalking the store and waiting for an opportunity to commit a crime.


As the name implies, concurrence is the term given when there is a connection between the actus reus and the mens rea. 

There are two main types of concurrence:

  • Temporal concurrence – When the two elements coincide. 
  • Motivational concurrence – The intent (mens rea) influences the action (actus reus). 

Strict Liability Laws

It is important to remember that, in some criminal cases, there is no need to prove criminal intent. These are known as strict liability laws. Statutory rape laws are one example of this type, as they do not require proof that the defendant knew about the age of the minor before committing a sexual act.  

Looking to Talk to a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer in Miami? Piotrowski Law Has You Covered

At Piotrowski Law, we are more than just another law firm looking to score another client. We care about the people we help, and we keep them as informed as possible during the defense process. Whether you need a federal conspiracy defense lawyer or someone on your side after a DUI, we’re here for you.

If you have any questions regarding criminal elements, or you want to consult with a respected Miami defense attorney, call us today at 305-930-6652. Of course, you also have the option to fill out our contact us page. We’re available for you 24 hours a day.