Good evening class,
Courts have defined specific intent as the subjective desire or knowledge that the prohibited result will occur (People v. Owens, 1983). For intent to be present, it must be proved that the thought to conduct the act was present. The prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant had intent to achieve a specific goal in addition to the intent to commit the illegal act. Examples of the types of specific intent crimes are burglary, conspiracy, forgery, embezzlement and larceny. Because intent mainly refers to the state of mind, it is hard to prove with direct evidence and is usually inferred from the facts of the case. Evidence of intent is admissible to prove a specific-intent crime.
Which crimes might be easier to prove intent than others? General intent crimes are easier to prove and can also result in a less severe punishment. A basic deﬁnition of general intent is the intent to perform the criminal actor actus reus (People v. Mcdaniel,1979). If the defendant acts intentionally but without the additional desire to bring about a certain result, or do anything other than the criminal act itself, the defendant has acted with general intent.
What kinds of proof might be used for certain crimes than others? There are three standards of proof which are proof beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence and clear and convincing evidence. Preponderance of the evidence is the lowest standard of proof. It is used primarily in civil proceedings. This standard means that it is more likely than not that the facts are as that which one of the parties claim. Clear and convincing evidence is a step up from the preponderance. This requires that the evidence show that it is highly probable or probably certain that the thing alleged has occurred. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt refers to the standard of proof in criminal prosecutions. The prosecutor has the duty to convince the jury by proof beyond a reasonable doubt of each and every element of the crime before a jury should convict a defendant (People v. Mcdaniel, 1979).
People v. Mcdaniel, 597 p.2d 124 (1979), accessed february 14, 2011, http://scholar.google.com/ scholar_case?case=8266915507346002022&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr.
People v. Owens, 131 mich. App. 76, 345 n.w.2d 904 , accessed december 10, 2010, http://scholar.google.com/ scholar_case?case=4472828314482166952&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr.
Proving intent can be challenging in criminal cases as in order to prove intent you must attempt to prove what a person was thinking and that the actions that the person took was for a distinct desired result. Criminal intent is when a suspect intends to do something wrong or something that is forbidden. The problem with proving criminal intent, mens rea, is it refers to the state of mind of an individual who makes a decision and that results in a criminal act. When referring to intent we use terms such as specific intent and general intent. Specific intent, as it states, refers to when a suspect commits a criminal act with the specific outcome or purpose. General intent is when a suspect actions result a criminal act. Specific intent is usually ajudicated much stricter then general intent crimes because crimes with specific intent not only involve a suspect committing a crime, but that suspects actions being more deliberate and having a specific result or end-state. Specific intent crimes usually have three elements which are that the suspect intend to have bad results, that the suspect intended to do something more than a commit a criminal act, and that the suspect knew that their actions were illegal or scienter. An example of a specific crime is maiming, maiming is a crime inflicted with the intent to disfigure or scar a person. If we look at a scenario where person A throws boiling hot water in the face of person B, it can be assumed by a reasonable person that the boiling hot water would scar person B’s face therefore person A may be convicted of maiming. However, if person A was carrying a pot of boiling water and they were accidentally bumped into by another person or slipped which then resulted in the water burning person B’s face, person A may be found liable for civil damages, but not criminal as it was an honest accident that a reasonable person could not have foreseen. Some examples of crimes that may easier to prove intent then others would be general intent and liability crimes as the prosecution does not have to prove that the suspect intended a desired result, but rather that the suspect’s actions were a crime. The prosecution is able to prove this through witness statements and any evidence that may be acquired from the crime scene. If we refer back to the crime of maiming if person A tossed the boiling hot water in person B’s face and caused a scar they could be tried for maiming as a reasonable person can infer that the actions would of resulted in a scar. However if person A punched person B which then resulted in person B falling back and spilling the boiling hot water on themselves a prosecution would find an easier time proving the general intent of battery vice the specific intent of maiming unless the prosecution was able to prove through witness statements that the actions were deliberate.
Proving intent can be challenging. What kind of crimes require specific intent and how difficult is that to prove?
For a refresher specific intent applies to an individual that is getting ready to commit a criminal activity (LSTD302 | LESSON THREE, 2020). This brings me back to the terrorism attack, the Unabomber’s manifesto article that I was reading that I think you will find interesting. The Unabomber’s manifesto was a very interesting story that I had no idea about. Basically, it is about Theodore J. Kaczynski. Ted Kaczynski graduated from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in math at the University of Michigan. Then, he pursed a teaching career at the University of California at Berkeley and quitted two years later (Editors, 2010). As you can see, this man is a very brilliant person. So, with such knowledge why did he kill three people and injure 23 (Farhi, 2015)? He did so by creating explosive bombs and distributing it to different areas and different people for 17 years without getting caught (Farhi, 2015). What is interesting to me is that Ted Kaczynski sent a letter to the New York Times and stated that he would stop the killing if they printed 35,000 manifestos (Editors, 2010). This manifesto against the “industrial-technological system” (Farhi, 2015). Normally, you have terrorist or criminals that are involve in such criminal activity ask for money or something that will benefit themselves in the long run, but no Ted Kaczynski was a different character. Instead, Ted had a problem with the technology system for security and decided to take matters into his own hands. Ted Kaczynski wrote out a manuscript on how to solve this problem and he wanted it to be posted to the public or have it manifestoed. After the FBI, reporters, CIA, and General Attorneys were reviewing his demands because Ted, mentioned to them that if they do not do it then more people would be killed (Farhi, 2015). The FBI knew that he was not lying, he’s been doing it for 17 years without getting caught so the government knew he was a serious threat. After carefully thinking it through they did manifestoed his manuscript. Unabomber (as the FBI named him) made history for the future. If it was not for his brother David Kaczynski, the FBI probably would not have caught him. David recognized his brother handwriting and knew from his past discussions with him and his family that it had to be him (Farhi, 2015). So, he eventually made up his mind and told the FBI. In this true event, I would say that the intent was difficult to prove because they could not understand why he did it until they caught him. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a must-read article.
Which crimes might be easier to prove intent than others?
A homicide crime or bank robbery would be something that might be easier to prove than the Unabomber example I gave.
What kinds of proof might be used for certain crimes than others?
Depending on the crime itself will determine the proof. For instance, if it was a homicide about someone’s body being burned in the woods. After investigation, an officer might have gotten intel that the individual bought a gun and fire starter kit. Essentially, the evidence would match to the criminal intent.
LSTD302 | LESSON THREE. (2020). Criminal Defenses. APUS.
Farhi, P. (2015, September 19). How publishing a 35,000-word manifesto led to the Unabomber. Retrieved from The Washington Post : https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-publishing-a-35000-word-manifesto-led-to-the-unabomber/2015/09/18/e55229e0-5cac-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html
Editors, H. (2010, February 09). Unabomber manifesto published. Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/unabomber-manifesto-published
Q4 50 words
How do you prove intent for a crime involving a “conspiracy”? Must there be specific intent or only general intent?