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Home > Blog > Criminal Defense > Culpable States of Mind – Knowledge
Aug 25, 2015

Culpable States of Mind – Knowledge

In criminal courts, including Maine’s, what was going through a person’s mind is a crucial part of whether what they did was a crime, or not. This is a crime’s requirement that someone have a “culpable state of mind” in order to be convicted for violating the law. A person’s culpable state of mind can make the difference between murder and manslaughter.

This is why Maine courts have recognized four different levels of a culpable state of mind. These are:

  1. Intent
  2. Knowledge
  3. Recklessness
  4. Negligence

In Maine’s criminal statutes, there will often be a statement about which of these is the required culpable state of mind to be convicted for that particular crime.

We’ve already been over intent, in this blog post. Now, we’ll take a closer look at what we mean by a knowledgeable state of mind.

According to the laws of Maine, you’re acting with knowledge if you’re aware that your conduct will almost certainly lead to a specific result. An example of someone acting with knowledge would be a man who has AIDS, and who knows that he has AIDS, and who understands how AIDS is transmitted, and yet who nevertheless continues to sleep with people without using protection, and without warning them of his condition. If he has intercourse specifically to transmit his disease to someone else, then he would no longer be acting with knowledge, and would be acting with intent, instead. However, if he wasn’t actively trying to spread AIDS, he would be acting with knowledge that it was a virtual certainty that other people would get the disease from him, as a result of his actions.

Like other states of mind, however, knowledge is something that goes on inside your head. Because lawyers and prosecutors still haven’t figured out a way to read peoples’ minds, they have to rely on clues and other visible signs that give some idea of what you were thinking at the time of your actions. This is where it gets tricky, especially for the prosecutor.

Remember that the prosecutor has to show the jury that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecutor has to absolutely convince the jury of all of the necessary elements of the crime that you’ve been charged for. This includes having the necessary culpable state of mind for that crime. Because of this, it’s up to the prosecutor to look at all of the visible clues surrounding your conduct, and convince the just that you acted knowingly.

This can be a high standard for even the best prosecutors in the state of Maine. However, it become even more difficult for them if you have a good defense attorney on your side, who is trying to raise a reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind that you were acting knowingly. This is where William T. Bly comes in. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146.

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