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What is strict liability?

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The mindset of the defendant is pivotal in criminal cases. Generally, to establish guilt, the defendant must have been in a culpable state of mind when committing the offense in question. This means that there must have been criminal intent or criminal negligence.

Nonetheless, this isn’t always the case. For some offenses, it is not necessary to establish criminal intent or negligence. These types of offenses are commonly referred to as strict liability offenses.

What is strict liability?

Strict liability means that the mental state of the defendant does not come into play. An offense can be committed regardless of whether the defendant had criminal intention or even knowledge that an offense was being committed.

Examples of strict liability offenses

One common example of a strict liability offense is being in possession of illicit substances. For instance, let’s say an Uber driver had been taking passengers to and from their destination all day. Unbeknown to the driver, one of the passengers had placed illegal drugs under the seat.

Upon a lawful traffic stop and search, law enforcement discovered the substances. The driver may still be charged with a possession offense regardless of whether or not they knew the drugs were there.

Another common example relates to store owners selling alcohol. Store owners have a duty to ensure that purchasers of alcohol are over the age of 21. They do this by checking ID. If an underage purchaser successfully uses a fake ID to buy alcohol, then the store owner may still have committed an offense. This is the case even though the store owner had no criminal intent or idea that they were breaking the law.

Strictly liability applies mainly to driving offenses

The most frequent type of strict liability offenses are driving infractions. For example, if a road user is recorded traveling over the speed limit without realizing it, an offense has still been committed.

If you’re facing criminal charges in Maryland, it’s crucial that you seek legal guidance to build your defense strategy.