What is Criminal Intent and How Does it Affect My Case?
The state of Nevada classifies every crime as one of two types according to whether its commission involved specific or general intent. The difference is meaningful. The law deals more harshly with the one than it does with the other. Any conventional crime will necessarily contain some element of intent. However, this intent can fall within a wide spectrum of severity that ranges from spontaneous action to deliberate premeditation. Even in the commission of crimes in which calculated malice has played no part, criminal intent will still apply if you engage in a certain activity with the realization that your actions are against the law or could cause harm.
Crimes of Specific Intent
Before the state of Nevada can convict you of committing a crime with specific intent, it must prove that you meant to perform that act with the expectation of achieving a particular result. Burglary (NRS 205.060 – 205.080)is a good example of a situation in which a thief makes a conscious decision to act with the specific intention of permanently depriving someone of his possessions. Such criminal actions are deliberate. Nobody accidentally breaks into a home at midnight and just happens to leave with a plastic bag filled with the family jewels. Specific intent can even apply in cases where an accused individual has not yet committed a crime but has definite plans to do so at some point in the future. For example, the courts may use specific intent as an excuse to detain an individual who has openly communicated plans to commit such acts as treason, sabotage, terrorism or murder. In cases like these, the individual’s own pronouncements are evidence enough. Some types of crimes of specific intent in Nevada include:
With certain crimes, the effort alone is sufficient to prove intent. Attempted murder, attempted kidnapping and attempted robbery all fall under the umbrella of crimes of specific intent.
Crimes of General Intent
If you should find yourself accused of committing a crime of general intent, you may be held responsible for the commission of that crime in and of itself regardless of whether you made a conscious decision to do so. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must only prove that the act occurred and that you were responsible. It need not demonstrate whether you did or did not intend for it to take place.
The crime of battery is one for which the performance of the act itself is enough to seek conviction. The prosecutor has no need to show that the defendant deliberately made unlawful contact with another individual. He needs to prove only that such an act did take place and that it did so at the hands of the accused.
Some examples of crimes of general intent in Nevada include:
Proving Criminal Intent
To prove that you committed a crime in the state of Nevada, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the act with either general or specific intent. This is not always easy to do. With either type of charge, the court must demonstrate that you acted with an intent that corresponds to the definition of the crime itself. The statute or code that governs the crime will usually delineate the required motive. With crimes of general intent, the prosecution need prove only that you committed the crime. With crimes of specific intent, on the other hand, it must prove that you acted deliberately in the hopes of achieving a particular end. To do this with any degree of effectiveness, the state must often rely on circumstantial evidence. While the testimony of an eyewitness can help to verify that someone did engage in a particular act, it cannot demonstrate in any way the thoughts that existed in his mind at the time. Only a defendant’s actions, writings or spoken words can show specific intent with any degree of certainty. If the prosecution is unable to authenticate these things, it will fail to win a conviction.
Criminal Intent and Severity of Punishment
Of the two types of crime in Nevada, those of specific intent are by far the more serious. The law feels that anyone who takes the time and trouble to plan and execute these acts presents the greater danger to the public. Since these individuals not only foresee but also intend and desire the probable consequences of their actions, they can also expect that if a conviction should take place, the punishment will be correspondingly harsh.
Your Criminal Defense
Whether the intent is general or specific, a criminal charge always calls for professional representation. Whether you are under investigation, expect to be facing criminal charges or already find yourself under arrest, you must engage a criminal defense attorney with the experience to protect your interests and argue your case in court if needed. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call the experienced criminal attorneys at Weiner Law Group today at 702-202-0500.