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