Culpable Law and Legal Definition

Culpable is a term in criminal law that refers to the blameworthiness of the accused. An accused is culpable when he or she is sufficiently responsible for criminal acts or negligence to be at fault and liable for the conduct. Culpability often implies some knowledge of the wrongfulness of one's actions. However, it is not always necessary to show gross, or wicked, or criminal negligence, something amounting, or at any rate analogous, to a criminal indifference to consequences, before a jury can find culpable crimes proven.

The common-law crimes, such as theft and murder, have a long history of requiring a culpable intent because they attach a social stigma. Regulatory offenses, on the other hand, are less serious. Regulatory statutes are in effect to police society in a way that reduces the probability of a harm. Thus, they generally do not require a culpable state of mind unless specifically expressed in the statute.

Culpable means deserving of condemnation or blame especially as wrong, illegal, or harmful. Standards of culpability are set by state laws, which vary by state. The following is an example of one state's lw deslin with culpability:

"General requirements of culpability.

(a) Minimum requirements of culpability.--Except as provided in section 305 of this title (relating to limitations on scope of culpability requirements), a person is not guilty of an offense unless he acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, as the law may require, with respect to each material element of the offense.

(b) Kinds of culpability defined.--

(1) A person acts intentionally with respect to a material element of an offense when:

  1. if the element involves the nature of his conduct or a result thereof, it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result; and
  2. if the element involves the attendant circumstances, he is aware of the existence of such circumstances or he believes or hopes that they exist.

(2) A person acts knowingly with respect to a material element of an offense when:

  1. if the element involves the nature of his conduct or the attendant circumstances, he is aware that his conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist; and
  2. if the element involves a result of his conduct, he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.
  3. A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and intent of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation.
  4. A person acts negligently with respect to a material element of an offense when he should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the actor's failure to perceive it, considering the nature and intent of his conduct and the circumstances known to him, involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation.

(c) Culpability required unless otherwise provided.--When the culpability sufficient to establish a material element of an offense is not prescribed by law, such element is established if a person acts intentionally, knowingly or recklessly with respect thereto.

(d) Prescribed culpability requirement applies to all material elements.--When the law defining an offense prescribes the kind of culpability that is sufficient for the commission of an offense, without distinguishing among the material elements thereof, such provision shall apply to all the material elements of the offense, unless a contrary purpose plainly appears.

(e) Substitutes for negligence, recklessness and knowledge.--When the law provides that negligence suffices to establish an element of an offense, such element also is established if a person acts intentionally or knowingly. When acting knowingly suffices to establish an element, such element also is established if a person acts intentionally.

(f) Requirement of intent satisfied if intent is conditional.--When a particular intent is an element of an offense, the element is established although such intent is conditional, unless the condition negatives the harm or evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.

(g) Requirement of willfulness satisfied by acting knowingly.--A requirement that an offense be committed willfully is satisfied if a person acts knowingly with respect to the material elements of the offense, unless a purpose to impose further requirements appears.

(h) Culpability as to illegality of conduct.--Neither knowledge nor recklessness or negligence as to whether conduct constitutes an offense or as to the existence, meaning or application of the law determining the elements of an offense is an element of such offense, unless the definition of the offense or this title so provides."