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Specific Intent Crimes

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According to common law, in order for something to be classified as a "crime," a certain number of elements must be met. At a bare minimum, a crime usually requires (a) proof of some type of physical act (called the actus reus) and proof of a (b) certain mental state (called the mens rea) by the person while committing the act. In other words, the State (i.e. government) must prove that a person actually committed the act accused of and acted with a certain mental state. The State must also generally prove that the act and the mental state occurred at the same time (i.e. they occurred concurrently). The State may also have to prove causation and a harmful result.

Further, with respect to the mens rea, or the mental state, crimes can be classified into four main categories, including: (1) specific intent crimes, (2) general intent crimes, (3) crimes committed with malice, and (4) strict liability crimes.

Specific intent in criminal law refers to the mental state, legally called the mens rea, that an individual has when committing a crime. Specific intent means that an individual did a certain act with a specific intent or purpose. This type of mental state cannot be just inferred from merely doing the act. There must be a specific objective or reason for doing the actual act. However, many times the State can only show actions and/or inactions of the accused to prove a specific intent crime.

For purposes of clarity, let’s also briefly discuss the three other types of intent crimes: (a) general intent crimes, (b) crimes committed with malice, and (c) strict liability crimes.

General intent crimes do not require proof that a person intended the precise harm or result that occurred. Rather, the State only needs to prove that the act was committed and it was not an accident. Crimes committed with malice require that the State prove that a person acted deliberately to cause unjustifiable injury to another. However, most jurisdictions do not use the term "malice" anymore. Instead, crimes committed with malice have mostly been written into statutes as specific intent crimes or have been omitted. Finally, strict liability crimes require no mental state to prove a person liable for the crime. Rather, the State only needs to prove that the person committed the crime. Strict liability crimes include such crimes as driving while intoxicated or statutory rape. For example, statutory rape means that the defendant raped a minor under a certain age. In this crime, the State does not need to prove whether the defendant knew the age of the minor or whether the defendant thought the minor consented. In other words, statutory rape statute means that by law minors cannot consent to sex with adults.



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 he is incapacitated, he is 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.

Cлова к тексту 1:

1. concurrently [kənˊkʌrəntlɪ] - одновременно

2. causation [kɔ:ˊzeɪʃən] - причинение

3. specific intent - специальный умысел

4. general intent - общий умысел

5. malice [ˊmælɪs] - злой умысел

6. strict liability [ˏlaɪəˊbɪlɪtɪ] - объективная ответственность (независимо от наличия вины)

7. to infer [ɪnˊfə:] - подразумевать

8. deliberately [dɪˊlɪbərɪtlɪ] - намеренно

9. unjustifiable [ʌnˊʤʌstɪfaɪəbl] - не имеющий оправдания

10. statutory [ˊstætjutərɪ] - статутарный, предусмотренный законом

11. to consent - согласие

12. a defense - обстоятельство, освобождающее от ответственности

13. voluntary intoxication - добровольное приведение себя в состояние опъянения

14. incapacitated [ˏɪnkəˊpæsɪteɪtɪd] - неспособный, непригодный

15. to relieve [rɪˊli:v] - освобождать

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