Types of Intent


Fundamentals of Criminal Law

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.

Jack Brown, Ph.D.


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The section above divides intent into levels based in the degree of culpability. There are also terms that categorize intent based on what exactly was intended.

  1. General intent simply means the intent to commit the criminal act; it does not speak to an intention to achieve a specific outcome or result.
  2. Specific intent applies to crimes that require a specific resulting harm, such as in homicide. The specific intent for homicide is the intent to cause the death of a person.
  3. Transferred intent applies to situations where the intent was to harm one person and the result was harm to another. This is often called bad aim intent—often a perpetrator trying to shoot one person shoots another instead.
  4. Constructive intent applies to situations where the harm done is greater than expected.

Term of Art:  Motive

A motive is a reason the defendant commits the criminal act.  Be careful not to confuse motive with mens rea.  Motive can be instrumental in generating a criminal intent in the mind of a defendant, and establishing it can be a very useful investigative tool.  However, motive alone does not constitute mens rea and does not act as a substitute for criminal intent at trial.

Modification History

File Created:  07/12/2018

Last Modified:  07/12/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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