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The mental element of a criminal charge

| Jul 22, 2020 | Firm News |

Often when a Georgia resident is charged with a crime, much of the focus in placed on the physical act of what they are alleged to have done. For example, if a person is charged with theft, prosecutors may focus on evidence of an allegedly stolen item in the person’s possession. If the person is charged with assault, a prosecutor may emphasize facts that show the individual threw a punch in a fight.

However, criminal charges are made up of more than just evidence of physical acts. They also include mental states of mind that must be proven in order for criminal charges to be fully established. In legal terms, mens rea is the Latin term that refers to a defendant’s state of mind at the time the allegedly committed a crime.

For many crimes, prosecutors must show that defendants knew that they were committing crimes or intentionally engaged in criminal conduct. Some serious criminal charges require proof of premeditation, or planning before committing a crime, in order to be fully demonstrated. The mental state element of a crime is important because it can be the difference between a serious criminal charge or no charge at all.

In terms of theft, readers can consider a person who finds a jacket that looks like one that they own and believes that it is theirs. Under those circumstance, the person takes the jacket because they believe that the own it. If it turns out that the jacket belonged to someone else, the person’s lack of intention to steal based on their honest mistake should prevent them from facing criminal charges.

This example and the contents of this post are not legal advice or guidance. Readers who wish to learn more about their criminal defense options should contact their trusted criminal defense attorneys.

 

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