Before the middle of the 19th century it was generally stated that a criminal conviction could not be had without proof of mens rea. By and large, the modern concept of criminal law still accepts this basic principle. However, a well-recognized exception to the general rule has developed in connection with so called "public welfare offenses" or "public torts." In such offenses, the usual requirement of proof of criminal intent has been dispensed with and strict liability has been imposed.
It should be stated at the outset that the present discussion of strict liability crimes is not concerned with doctrines such as statutory rape or the felony-murder and misdemeanor-manslaughter rules. In a sense strict liability is attached to crimes falling within the purview of these doctrines, but in each event, the act to which strict liability is attached is morally wrong in and of itself. The present discussion is limited to acts which may entail no wrongful intent or moral guilt, but nevertheless are considered criminal offenses.
Claire D. Johnson,
Strict Liability Crimes,
33 Neb. L. Rev. 462
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol33/iss3/10