Criminal intent, also known as mens rea, indicates the state of mind a person was in before committing a crime. Criminal intent is a key element in most criminal cases. The courts and the legal system put a more severe punishment on crimes that require a high degree of criminal intent. Such crimes are considered to be more heinous and the individual is considered to be more dangerous. Naturally, there are many kinds of criminal intent that are evaluated during the course of a criminal trial. A successful defense will be able to prove that the accused did not possess any kind of criminal intent or that the intent was a low degree.

Are There Different Kinds of Criminal Intent?

Yes, the law makes a distinction between general intent and specific intent. General intent focuses on whether the defendant violated the law, not whether they intended to harm a specific person. For example, a random burglary or a hit and run accident are a good examples of general intent. Whereas stalking, premeditated acts of mass violence, and obsessive pursuits are more specific intents.

There are also legal distinctions made between oblique and direct intent. Oblique intent refers to unintended consequences that were a result of the crime. While direct intent is when the defendant intended the consequences of their action. Oblique intent and direct intent can be present in the same case and in the same crime.

Why Does Criminal Intent Matter?

Criminal intent matters because spontaneous acts of passion are generally considered to be less dangerous than premeditated acts. A defendant can face a reduced charge and a reduced sentence if lack of intent can be proven. In fact, the type of criminal intent can be the difference between a murder and a manslaughter charge.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Yes. A criminal lawyer can help you make the best possible case, reduce or dismiss your charges, and reduce or negotiate your sentence.