Britney Lacks Necessary Mental Element
A reporter recently pressed charges against Britney Spears for running over his foot with her car.
But on Friday, Deputy District Attorney Joseph D. Shidler said,
[the] only way the victim’s foot could have been where the video indicates it to be was by the victim placing it in that location.
Shidler had reviewed photos and videos from last year to assess her liability, and noted that she was driving very slowly in a straight path, surrounded by reporters with lots of noise and confusion.
Furthermore, Britney claims not to even remember the incident.
It’s not the first time she’s gotten in trouble while driving. In 2006, a scandal erupted when she was spotted driving with her child on her lap, and last year she had a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge in a parking lot.
Earlier this year she had an accident on the Los Angeles freeway.
But Brittney lacks the mens rea, or the mental element necessary for guilt for offence in this most recent incident.
There are some criminal acts that do not require mens rea at all, including absolute liability offences and some regulatory offences.
But otherwise the mental state or subjective awareness in a state of mind is needed in addition to the act requirement, or actus reus, component of the offence. The mental state also includes:
- willful blindness
In Fagan v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner  1 QB 439, the defendant was pulled over by PC Morris, but stopped too far from the curb. The officer directed him to a specific location, and accidentally drove over the officer’s foot.
Get off, you are on my foot!
But Fagan turned off his ignition and said,
F*** you, you can wait.
After repeating the request several times, Fagan finally complied.
Fagan was charged with “Assaulting a constable in execution of his duties,” but he appealed as he had not initially run over the cop’s foot on purpose.
Although the court agreed that assault cannot be committed by omission, this assault occurred as a continual act of battery. Fagan developed the necessary mental element by continuing to keep the car on the officer’s foot.
The conviction was upheld.
The court said,
On the facts of the present case, the ‘assault’ alleged involved a ‘battery’. Where an assault involved a battery, it matters not, in our judgement, whether the battery is inflicted directly by the body of the offender or through the medium of some weapon or instrument controlled by the action of the offender. An assault may be committed by the laying of a hand on another, and the action does not cease to be an assault if it is a stick held in the hand and not the hand itself which is laid on the person of the victim. So, for our part, we see no difference in principle between the action of stepping on to a person’s toe and maintaining that position and the action of driving a car on to a person’s foot and sitting in the car while its position on the foot is maintained.
This case was cited in the Supreme Court in R. v. Cooper,  1 S.C.R. 146 in assessing the contemporaneity of the mental and act element for a drunken person who accidentally strangled a friend
Had Brittney deliberately run over the reporter’s foot, or found out about it and kept the car in place, she may have been found guilty.
This time at least, we’re going to leave Britney alone.