Criminal Culpability

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Criminal Culpability

Full Definition of Criminal Culpability

In general, for a criminal conviction to succeed, there needs to be a demonstration of culpability. On the whole, the accused will culpable if at the time of the offence

  • he or she was not exempt from liability; for example, the perpetrator may be exempt if below the age of criminal consent (see: Exemption from criminal liability);
  • the act which is the subject of the prosecution (see: Actus Reus) is properly attributable to the accused; for example, the accused may not be culpable if the act was indirectly caused by someone else. If the act was involuntary (see: Automatism), this also is a defence.
  • the accused must have had a mental state commensurate with the carrying out of the act, at the time of the act (see: Mens Rea). The state of mind may reflect an intention to cause harm or a reckless disregard for the fact that harm may result.
  • the accused has no General defence (self-defence, protection of another person, etc.) or special defence.

Although it is illogical, English law reflects the feeling in society that the degree of culpability is proportional to the degree of harm. Suppose, for example, that a person fires a gun into a crowded room, with the intention to kill someone. Most people would say that a more serious crime has been committed if someone actually gets killed, than if the bullet hits a pot plant. For a more detailed discussion, see: Subjective and objective culpability.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Criminal Culpability. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 26, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Criminal Culpability. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 26, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Criminal Culpability. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Criminal Culpability are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 5th April, 2020 | 4 Views.