In many cases, a defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime is considered when a case makes it to court – even when you least expect it. For instance, in some cases, you may be able to prove that you didn’t actually intend to commit a crime and the prosecutor may not be able to disprove it. Many crimes in California are referred to as “mens rea” which is latin for “guilty mind.” This helps the criminal system dictate between somebody who did not mean to commit a crime and someone who did so intentionally. An example is a hit and run accident. In one scenario, somebody may not brake in time and could accidentally hit the pedestrian. In another scenario, perhaps the defendant saw the pedestrian and intentionally steered toward him, killing him. These are two very different scenarios that could lead to different charges based on the mental state alone.
Negligence or an Intentional Crime?
The reason why this matters is because, just due to small differences alone, a crime could be seen as intentional or just negligent carelessness. This can blur the lines on what was intentional and what was unintentional. To be charged with many crimes, a person must knowingly engage in illegal activity or else they can’t be charged. For example, to be charged with a drug trafficking crime, you must knowingly important illegal drugs across the border. However, what happens if somebody plants the illegal drugs in your vehicle to cross them over the border so that they can them sell them and you didn’t know about it? You can’t be held liable in these cases.
Motive matters in these cases because it proves if something was intentional or not, which is a make or break to a crime. And in many cases, if intent cannot be proven because the prosecution does not have enough evidence, usually the charges will not stick. It is important to understand how motive works in crimes and how it can affect your case. Call us today.