Automatism And Prior Fault In Criminal Law

 Automatism And Prior Fault In Criminal Law

Automatism and Prior Fault in Criminal Law, they are two major terms we need to know.

Automatism and prior fault have different kind of effect which varies according to the type of crime and the defendant’s state of mind. 


Automatism is the physical act itself which you had no control over therefore it tags on two Actus Reus or the external element.

The Actus Reus must be voluntary, it must be committed with a plan and a sound mind. Automatism itself is a defense.

Automatism deals with situations where the action itself is involuntary.

When the defendant successfully pleads automatism so if automatisms proved the Actus Reus of the particular offense that he is accused of is negated and therefore he will be acquitted so its very important to have a best criminal lawyers.

Types of automatism

There are two main types of automatism,i) Sane Automatism, ii) Insane Automatism.

Sane Automatism where the defendant proves that there was an automatism in play, he will have an unqualified acquittal. It refers to the intent and what situation or what circumstance your mental condition was in at that time therefore it connects to the internal element thereby the Mens rea.  

Insane Automatism, which is proven he will be found not guilty but by the reason of insanity. If we take murder, the defendant will serve a mandatory indefinite stay in a psychiatric hospital.

The effects of both variants of automatism are starkly different to each other.

Sane automatism is when its external element affects the Actus Reus and acquittal will take place. Actus Reus is being affected

Insane automatism is purely due to the fact that no external factor was evident rather his internal dynamics itself the violence.   

The reason for the stark contrast in the pronouncement of judgment between sane and insane automatism is by considering the insane automatism as a disease of the mind.

The disease of mind means that the problem could reoccur and it might be dangerous for the society at large.

For sane automatism, it can be considered as a reaction to something ,in this case it means that the Actus Reus was done involuntarily whereas in insane automatism is a mental component and your own mental dynamics which are in play.

Limitations of automatism

If the defendant displayed some form of partial control during the whole ordeal or the circumstance, the automatism or the defense of it might fail.

If there are any prior faults, the automatism might fail once again.

If the defendant suffers from the disease of mind, it will automatically be considered as insane automatism in which case it will be not be a complete acquittal, in the case of murder it will be an indefinite mandatory stay in psychiatric hospital. 

Efforts of Prior Fault

Crimes can be segregated into two specific sections either as basic intent crime or specific intent crime.

Basic intent crime simulate that you do not need to prove intention.

E.g. Negligence, Recklessness or Criminal Damage

For specific intent crime, you must show an intention. 

E.g. Murder

Prior fault is in relation to the effect of alcohol or intoxication in the crime committed by the defendant. 

Intoxication can be either self-induced or non-self-induced, depending on what it is the punishment and availability of a defense of prior fault might be different. 

Self-Induced intoxication 

It can be a defense for specific intent crime. E.g. in the case of murder, both Actus Reus and Mens Rea is required for the conviction to be succeed. So when it is intoxication, the defendant might be drunk and he kills a person and the Actus Reus element is present but the court will not consider that he was in a mental capacity to develop the requisite of Mens Rea of murder. Therefore it can be successful defense but not all the time

Self-induced intoxication cannot be a defense for basic intent crime because there is no need for a Mens Rea component, Actus Reus is sufficient.

Non-self-induced intoxication

It means that you are unaware that your drink has been spiked or you have provided with alcohol more than the required amount without your knowledge, it can be defense for both specific intent and basic intent crimes. If the reason is self-explanatory then it is accepted.

Prior fault deals with the notion you utilize it as a defense for actions which are committed without a requisite Mens Rea.

This article is published by Designing with me solutions to educate people related to Law.

Paul watson

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