When someone commits a crime in California, usually two main questions arise: What was the defendant doing? And what was his/her intent? There are two things Actus Reus means criminal action in the criminal statute book, and Mens Rea means criminal intent. In order for a conviction, the prosecution needs to prove both the action and intent of a criminal statute.
According to the United States Supreme Court, the intent distinguishes criminal conduct from innocent conduct. If a prosecutor fails to prove that defendant had any criminal intent, the defendant must not be declared guilty. If a defendant commits a crime with criminal intent, he can be charged with it as long as he had the intent. To better understand intent crimes and their consequences, you need to get in touch with a riverside criminal defense attorney.
Defining Mens Rea
Mens Rea is a Latin term which means “guilty mind.” In simple words, it is the defendant’s state of mind and the intent when the crime was committed. With the help of Mens Rea, the Criminal justice system differentiates someone who intentionally committed a crime from someone who had no intention of committing it. In California, intentional harmful behavior is often considered criminal.
Major Types of Mens Rea in California criminal statute:
Different level of intent involves in various crimes. The term general intent is used when the law does not specify the intent behind any offensive act. Specific intent and criminal negligence are the other prominent types of Mens Rea.
- General Intent crimes:
In California, general intent crimes don’t require any intention or purpose. Crimes that are committed with negligence or recklessness are usually considered general intent crimes. In case of general intent crimes, the prosecution is only required to show that the defendant has committed an offensive act. Such crimes are linked with “actus rea,” the Latin word for actions crime. They don’t need any proof of the defendant’s motivations. Crimes with general intent include assault, battery, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment and involuntary manslaughter.
- Specific Intent crimes:
In legal terminology, specific Intent crimes are the ones that are intentional, purposeful or willful. In this case, it is not enough to commit a crime. Malicious intent must be involved in all cases that fall under the category of specific intent crimes. If you try to steal something from someone as part of a prank, you cannot be charged with the specific intent crime. You had no intention to deprive the other person of their property. Acts that can be regarded as specific intent crimes include burglary, forgery, solicitation, larceny, child molestation, embezzlement, murder and conspiracy.
How can intent crimes affect your case?
Criminal intent plays the most significant role in criminal prosecutions. There is a clear difference between general and specific intent crimes. When it comes to specific intent crimes, the consequences are more severe than general intent crimes. If the prosecution can prove your involvement in specific intent crimes, you are more likely to face stiffer penalties.
Mainly, the prosecution uses evidence like communication in emails, texts, or social media posts to prove criminal charges. Moreover, a prosecution may also try to link the defendant’s conduct during the crime with their typical character. Facing criminal charges is tough, especially when you had no intent to commit a crime. If you are charged with a crime but did not have any criminal intent, an expert defense attorney can help you prove your lack of intent. A legal expert can give you more options to explore your case and help you face the charges against you.