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Specific and General Intent Crimes

1Intent can be defined as a guiding motive. Criminal intent, therefore, refers to an unlawful guiding motive. When someone commits an act that is driven by unlawful motives, he is usually guilty of a crime. It is possible, however, for someone to commit the same act, but due to lack of criminal intent, be deemed innocent.

In law there is a Latin term, mens rea, which refers to a guilty mind. Mens rea is very important in criminal law because when a crime is outlined, a person’s mental state is usually considered. As a result, a person’s mental state plays a role in whether or not he can be convicted of a particular crime. Criminal intent is one of the reasons it is important for law enforcement officials to work so hard to establish the motive of crimes.

Specific and General Intents

Crimes are listed according to the two basic types of intent- specific and general intent. Specific intent crimes require that the prosecution prove that the defendant had a particular purpose or intention that was driving them to commit the crime. The required motive is usually listed in the statute or code governing the crime.

For example, in a theft case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had the intent to steal the object, as well as the intent to permanently deprive the person of the property. This last requirement is what makes the crime of theft a specific intent crime.

In contrast, with a general intent crime, the prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant intended to commit the act in question. A common example of this is battery. When proving battery, the prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant intended to commit the battery by showing that the act was not an accident. They do not need to prove that the defendant had a particular motive for committing the battery.

Whether a crime is categorized as general intent or specific intent will have different legal consequences. For example, certain defenses are only available for general intent crimes and vice versa. Generally it is more difficult to prove specific intent crimes as opposed to general intent crimes.

Some examples of crimes that are listed under the category of specific intent include:

  • 1st degree murder (premeditated)
  • Assault (attempted battery)
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Larceny
  • Forgery
  • False Pretenses
  • Embezzlement
  • Inchoate (incomplete) crimes – Solicitation, attempt, and conspiracy

Also note that some crimes can be classified as either a general intent crime or a specific intent crime. For example, there are two types of assault: attempted battery and creating a reasonable apprehension of harm. The first type, attempted battery is a specific intent whereas the second type is a general intent crime. Thus, they require two different burdens of proof.

Are There Any Defenses to Specific Intent Crimes?

The most common form of defense to a specific intent crime is voluntary intoxication. That is, the defendant knowingly consumed a substance that rendered them incapacitated. This is a defense because, since they are incapacitated, they are unable to form the required mental state for specific intent crimes. The intoxication is said to “negate” the required intent.

Although such defenses may be available for specific intent crimes, this does not mean that they will automatically relieve the defendant of all guilt. Sometimes the defense simply serves to lower the charge to a less serious one, for example, from 1st degree murder to a simple homicide charge.

Experience of a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your family, your reputation, your immigration status, and your job may be at stake. The outcome you receive in the criminal justice system depends upon the experience and knowledge of the defense attorney you choose to represent you.

The criminal defense law firm of Andrew Stine, P.A. combines the nationally recognized criminal defense practice of trial and appellate attorney Andrew Stine, creating an international practice encompassing the defense of individuals and corporations facing serious criminal charges in Florida, across the United States and around the world. When you retain our law firm, you don’t simply retain a criminal defense attorney – you retain an experienced criminal defense law team. Andrew Stine and his team have worked together for years, successfully representing clients in virtually every type of criminal case. We represent individuals and organizations vigorously, with individual attention and a passionate respect for due process, through each stage and every aspect of your case.

In Florida criminal law, a motive to hurt another individual is a major factor in the prosecution’s case. If you had no motive to seriously injure another person, the charges can be reduced or dropped. Attorney Andrew Stine has handled many aggravated battery and assault cases.

Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.

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