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Culpable States of Mind – Intent






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Aug 24, 2015

Culpable States of Mind – Intent

In all criminal courts, including Maine’s, a person’s state of mind has been determined to be a crucial part of a crime. This is because the law thinks that when you commit a crime without intent, that crime is not as serious but if you meant to do something wrong, and then did it.

This is why Maine courts have recognized four different states of mind that can turn something from an unfortunate accident, into a crime. These are:

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

In the statutes that describe crimes in Maine, there will often be a statement about which of these is a “culpable state of mind” – and therefore required in order for you to be convicted for that particular crime.

Here, we’re going to discuss the first, and most serious of these states of mind: Intent.

In essence, to do something with intent means that you purposefully meant to do the action that you’re being charged for. It’s plotting, ahead of time, and with a level head, the exact plan that you were going to use for the action, and then setting out to execute that plan. It’s acting while intentionally trying to cause a specific result.

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, to you. Intent is not a very difficult term to understand. However, like many things in the law, it quickly becomes complex, because of how difficult it is to see practically, in real life.

It’s all well and good to say that intending to commit a crime is more serious than recklessly doing it. However, intention is something that goes on inside your own head. Prosecutors and lawyers learn a lot of things while in law school and while practicing law, but mind reading is not one of them. Therefore, attorneys and prosecutors resort to looking for visible signs that give some clue as to whether you intended to do something. And this is where it gets tricky.

For example, if you’re charged for murder in the state of Maine, the prosecutor could argue that you intended to do the deed, and that this intention was shown by the fact that you loitered in the empty parking lot where the body was found for hours before committing the crime. However, this does not necessarily show intent.

A good criminal defense attorney will argue that the fact that you loitered in the empty parking lot means nothing more than the fact that you loitered in the empty parking lot. There are lots of reasons for loitering in an empty parking lot that do not include committing a murder, there. Maybe you were waiting for someone else. Maybe you were having car trouble. Maybe you needed to get away from people, and the empty parking lot was a perfect place to stop and think.

All states of mind are difficult to prove, because you can’t directly see them – you have to figure them out, based on clues that happened in real life. This is tough for a prosecutor to do, especially when their job is to show that you intended to do a crime: Intent is a high bar to meet, and they have to meet it, beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do meet that standard, however, they’re one step closer to convicting you for a crime.

The best way to prevent this from happening is by hiring a solid defense attorney, like William T. Bly. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146.



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