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When Minnesota engaged in the great reform and recodification effort that led to the Criminal Code of 1963, it was part of a nationwide reform movement. That movement was spurred in large part by the American Law Institute and its Model Penal Code. The Minnesota drafters were influenced by the MPC, and at least in some areas, adopted MPC recommendations.

The MPC’s most significant innovation was in the law of mens rea—the body of law concerning the mental state or “guilty mind” necessary for criminal liability. The MPC drafters recognized that the common law of mens rea was fundamentally incoherent and had been a constant sources of confusion for courts. The MPC drafters therefore created a bold new mens rea framework. Minnesota, however, did not adopt that framework. Instead, the drafters of the 1963 Code attempted smaller changes, and since then, Minnesota courts have continued to rely heavily on the common law of mens rea. As a result, the same mens rea problems that befuddled old common law courts linger in Minnesota today. These problems cause needless confusion and unpredictability in the criminal law. It is time for Minnesota to enact further reforms to move the Code closer to the MPC mens rea framework.