Certain crimes require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant not only committed the crime but also intended to inflict certain harm. “Specific intent crimes” can be challenging for prosecutors because the act is not enough to be a crime on its own if the defendant’s actions were accidental or they didn’t have certain information. Additionally, the defendant must not only have committed the unlawful act but also carried it out with wrongful intent.
When it comes to specific intent crimes, the defendant’s state of mind and criminal intent comprise the mental element. State statutes have different requirements for what constitutes intent. For example, forgery charges require prosecutors to prove the defendant had the intent to defraud to secure a guilty verdict. Various language is used within the state statutes to specify different intent requirements for different crimes, such as: willfully, purposely, knowingly, and with malice aforethought.
Examples of specific intent crimes in the state of California include:
- Certain child sex crimes
- Felony arson
- First-degree murder
The California Penal Code states the exact mental state the perpetrator must have been in at the time for that specific intent crime to have been committed. This means that prosecutors must prove every element of the crime to get a conviction. While the evidence in a case might appear to be straightforward, proving the criminal intent can be a major obstacle for prosecutors to overcome.
Have you been accused of committing a specific intent crime? Then please reach out to Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP so we can discuss your situation and help you determine the best course of action to protect your best interest. Call (800) 462-7160 today to schedule a case consultation.