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What Is a “Specific Intent” Crime?

By Timothy Bussey on March 19, 2021

All crimes in Colorado can be sorted into one of two groups: specific intent and general intent. Which you are being charged with will determine the kind of defense that your attorney should implement during your trial.

Examples of Intent Crimes

Simply put, a specific intent crime is one where your intentions are a key factor in your guilt. If you did not intend to commit the crime, as in it was completely accidental or a mistake, then your penalties should either be lessened or dropped altogether. There are many crimes that qualify as intent crimes. Some examples include:

Most fraud crimes would qualify as specific intent crimes, as it can be fairly easy to fill out a form wrong or provide an institution with incorrect information. That being said, even some violent crimes require clear intent in order to result in a conviction. For example, if you killed someone by accident, it would be a manslaughter charge, not a murder one, as a key aspect of murder is the intention to take a life.

Crimes that do not require proof of intention are called “general intent” crimes. This means that the prosecution will not have to demonstrate that you intended to commit the crime, merely that the crime was committed by you. For example, you do not need to intent to commit a DUI in order for it to be a criminal act. Rather, you just need to get behind a wheel with a blood alcohol content of over .08%.

Intent in Trial

Why does it matter if you are being charged with a specific intent crime or a general intent crime? Well, because specific intent crimes, ones where your intentions matter, are much harder to prove. The prosecution will need to be able to show the jury that you truly intended to commit the crime. There are no tests that can prove intent. Rather, the prosecution must rely on paper trails, witness statements, or confessions.

If the prosecution is unable to obtain any evidence that you intended to commit the crime, whether it was fraud or murder, then the case against you would not hold as much water. Your charge would be dropped to a general intent crime, or you would be acquitted. In either case, the outcome of your trial would be heavily in your favor.

That is why a skilled criminal defense attorney will often turn to denial of intention during specific intent crime cases. The only person who can ever truly know your intentions is yourself. The prosecution will have a long and difficult journey to prove that you did intend to commit any crime at all.

When You are Accused of a Specific Intent Crime

These facts don’t mean a criminal trial for a specific intent crime will be easy. The district attorney will do everything they can to get the jury on their side. You should never assume that they don’t have some kind of evidence to try and pin down your intentions. After all, prosecutors don’t pick battles they don’t think they can win.

If you are facing criminal charges, whether for a specific intent crime or a general intent crime, then you need a strong defense. As top Colorado criminal defense attorneys, we at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., provide our clients with just that. To start your free consultation, call us at (719) 475-2555 today. We never stop fight for our clients’ rights.

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