Actus reus is the Latin term that refers to a “guilty act”. When combined with mens rea (guilty intent), this element must be proven in order for someone to be held liable for a crime. The prosecution must prove that an act has been committed in order to punish a defendant, because no one can be punished for guilty intent alone. An act is generally defined, by the Model Penal Code, as a voluntary bodily movement. The Model Penal Code was developed by the American Law Institute in 1962 and standardizes criminal law in the country. However, omission is also considered an act under actus reus. According to the Model Penal Code, an omission is the failure to act in a way that would avoid injury. The Model Penal Code uses the “but for” reasoning in determining omission. If it is determined that a defendant would have avoided the crime “but for” his failure to act, then he is held to actus reus. Possession is considered a voluntary act as well and is sufficient to establish actus reus.
In general, only voluntary acts are sufficient to establish actus reus. Therefore, an act that is committed during convulsion, such as a seizure, during sleep, hypnosis, or unconsciousness, is considered involuntary and not subject to actus reus. However, omission can still be considered a criminal act because it is said that the person voluntarily chose not to act. It is not sufficient for prosecution to prove guilty intent alone, the Model Penal Code specifies that a criminal<spanuek3″>