Every crime has a set of elements that the prosecuting attorney must prove in order to establish the defendant’s guilt. One of these elements typically has to do with the defendant’s mental state. Usually, prosecutors must show that the defendant acted intentionally, or perhaps recklessly or negligently. But when an offense is a strict liability crime, there’s no state-of-mind element to prove.
Strict liability is more common in civil lawsuits; criminal punishment is usually reserved for those who act with a culpable mental state. But some acts produce outcomes that lawmakers want to punish regardless of state of mind.
There may be defenses to strict liability crimes other than “I didn’t do it.” But this is a tricky area of the law, and a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is the best—and should be the only—person to advise someone as to defenses that might apply in a given case.