Criminal Intent: What You Need to Know

October 15th, 2016 | By | Posted in Uncategorized

When you are charged with a crime, the road before you can seem daunting and confusing. The legal process is complex for a reason, and recruiting the help of a reputable criminal defense attorney in Pasadena is the best course of action when you are faced with criminal charges. Read on for an overview of criminal intent and why it is such an important part of your upcoming case.

Criminal Intent: Defined

Quite simply, criminal intent is defined as the intent to commit a crime. It is considered malicious where the person in question intends to defraud someone or deprive them of their property. Basically, it involves the conscious decision to commit a crime, injure another party, or deprive another, whether the crime was spontaneous or premeditated.

Contrary to popular belief, criminal intent can be present even if the crime is not premeditated. Even when you do not plan on committing a crime, if you understand the consequences of taking certain criminal actions, you are considered to have possessed criminal intent. Even if a crime is committed spontaneously, individuals who understand that their actions will harm other person or that their lack of action will cause a crime to be committed are considered to have criminal intent.

4 Levels of Criminal Intent

There are four different types of criminal intent, or mens rea: intent, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.

  • Purposeful intent includes crimes that are committed intentionally by someone who knows full well the consequences that their actions will have. The person in question desires those consequences and knows that they are unlawful.
  • Knowledge is where the person knows the consequences of the actions they are taking, but they do not necessarily intend for those results to occur.
  • Reckless acts are committed without thought for the consequences. This conscious disregard for consequences for your actions is still considered criminal intent.
  • Negligence refers to the failure to act in a responsible manner. When you fail to act as a normal person would in a given situation and the results include harm to others, it is negligent conduct.


The level of criminal intent is based on the state of mind of the person committing the crime. If you carelessly run a red light and someone is unintentionally harmed, that is considered negligent. If you injure another person while knowingly driving under the influence, it is considered reckless. Although the intention was not to harm another person, you understand the potential consequences of drunk driving. If you lash out at a person or driver due to road rage and harm is caused, you know that the injury of another person is the predictable consequence of your actions, and you are guilty of having criminal knowledge. If you target and assault someone with your car, you display criminal intent.

Criminal Intent: What You Should Know

Since penalties are more severe for crimes of intent than crimes of negligence, your Pasadena defense attorney can try to prove that the act was not purposeful or knowing. Facts need to be established, psychological defenses constructed, and other steps taken to prove that you did not act knowingly or intentionally.

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