In California criminal law, there are two essential factors to consider when someone is accused of a crime: what did they do, and what were they thinking? Lawyers ask the latter question to determine a crime’s mens rea or criminal intent. The actual act of committing the crime alone may not be sufficient to get a conviction in some cases.
Sometimes, the prosecution must also show that the offender had intent to convict them of breaking the law. When facing a criminal accusation, possibly the best method to defend yourself and demonstrate that you lacked criminal intent is to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to make your strongest case to the jury.
How Is Intent Defined in California Criminal Law?
In California, the mental component of committing crimes is known as intent. Criminal intent is characterized as a person’s resolution or decision to carry out a crime. California crimes are divided into those with general intent and specific intent. Crimes with general intent involve committing a criminal act knowingly. Specific intent crimes require the commission of a criminal act with knowledge and the intention to utilize the act to bring about a specific outcome.
General intent—a combination of an act and an intent—must be present to be found guilty of committing a crime. This statute implies that if an act was conducted accidentally or without the awareness of specific facts, the act itself could not be sufficient to qualify as criminal behavior.
For crimes of specific intent, the penal code will specify precisely which mental state the defendant is required to have. For instance, certain crimes call for malice, while others may only call for negligence. Each requires a unique mental condition.
How Is Criminal Intent Prosecuted in California
To convict you of a crime, the prosecutor must present evidence of each element of the crime. Although it may seem straightforward, a prosecutor may not be able to successfully prosecute you if a crime requires both an act and intent.
Determining whether the act was committed is frequently quite simple since evidence of a crime being committed is typically clearly visible in its outcome. The only significant issue in your prosecution, aside from establishing that you were the one who committed the crime, may end up being whether you had the necessary criminal intent when you committed the act.
Your mental condition will make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. You cannot be found guilty of the crime if the prosecutor can’t show that you intended to commit the offense.
How can a California Defense Attorney Defend Against Crimes Requiring Intent?
Hiring a lawyer is crucial when you are accused of a crime. A skilled criminal defense attorney will be equipped to make a case for lack of intent. They will be familiar with how to argue on your behalf and demonstrate that the prosecution may not have met its burden of proving each element beyond a reasonable doubt.
You cannot be found guilty if there is any reasonable question about a component, and the same holds true for your mental state. The following defense tactics are some examples of how a skilled criminal defense attorney can demonstrate that someone lacked the necessary intent:
- The defendant’s mental state prevented them from generating the necessary intent.
- The defendant intended to produce a different outcome.
- When the act was committed, the defendant no longer possessed the necessary intent.
- The act was impulsive or unintentional.
Even if you had criminal intent mere seconds before you committed the act or after, you cannot be convicted as long as there is not a precise union between act and intent.
Consult a Reliable California Defense Attorney
You should consider having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side if you are being investigated for a crime requiring intent for conviction. With years of experience handling various criminal cases, your defense attorney may be able to argue that you lacked the precise intent required by the law to be found guilty.
Dod Law, APC has effective criminal defense strategies for these kinds of situations that have assisted our clients in disproving allegations. We make every effort to uphold your rights so that you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of charges that don’t fully reflect the facts. Call us at our San Diego office 619-814-5110 | Vista office 760-814-6025 to set up a free consultation right now, or fill out and submit our contact form.