Words like “knowingly” and “willfully” are often brought up in the criminal justice system when determining a defendant’s guilt. That is because many crimes require not only that a person committed an act, but that he or she intended to commit that act. These crimes are referred to as “general intent crimes.”
The most severe crimes involve a defendant who not only intended to commit an act, but also did so with the intent to cause a specific result. These types of crimes are called “specific intent crimes.”
Let’s take a closer look at the difference between a general intent crime and a specific intent crime.
What is a General Intent Crime?
A general intent crime is a crime in which the action leading to the offense is performed intentionally. For example, the crime of battery under Penal Code Section
242 is when a person commits “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
Let’s say you threw a punch at someone and you hit that person with your punch. Under PC 242, you have committed the crime of battery because you intentionally used violence against another person. The statute does not require that you intended to cause the victim any particular injury. For battery, it is enough that you willfully threw a punch until it contacted the other person’s body. Therefore, battery is a general intent crime.
What is a Specific Intent Crime?
On the other hand, a specific intent crime means that you intentionally committed the act and you intended a certain result to occur by committing the act.
An example of this would be theft. To be convicted of theft under California law, you must have intentionally taken the property of another person with the specific intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the other person of the property.
Suppose you are accused of stealing another person’s diamond ring. To prove you are guilty of this offense, not only does the prosecution have to prove that you intentionally took the ring, but also that it was your intention to temporarily or permanently keep the ring after you had stolen it. The fact that you were going to keep the ring is a specific result, which makes theft a specific intent crime.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are accused of a general or specific intent crime, you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable criminal lawyers have more than 40 years of experience successfully defending clients accused of specific intent crimes. Our law firm has helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Contact our law offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.