General and Specific Intent Crimes in CaliforniaFor some offenses in California, proving that a defendant committed a criminal act is not enough to get a conviction – the state must also show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was a wrongful intent to commit the crime.

When it comes to matters of intent, California state law divides criminal acts into two categories: general intent crimes and specific intent crimes.

What are General Intent Crimes?

To get a conviction for a general intent crime, the prosecution must simply prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the act. They do not have to show that the defendant willfully or intentionally intended to commit the crime.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is an example of a general intent crime. The prosecution does not have to show that the defendant willfully intended to drive under the influence of alcohol. All the prosecution needs to establish is that the defendant operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.

Assault, battery, kidnapping, rape, and involuntary manslaughter are examples of general intent crimes in California.

What are Specific Intent Crimes?

Specific intent crimes require that the prosecution show the defendant knowingly, purposely, or willfully intended to commit a specific crime in order to get a conviction. However, different requirements for intent apply in different specific intent crime cases. Some crimes require the prosecution to show malice in committing the crime, while others require negligence or recklessness.

For example, to get a conviction for forgery, the prosecution only has to show that the defendant willfully intended to commit the crime. On the other hand, in order to obtain a conviction for a crime like first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly, purposely, with recklessness, and with malice aforethought committed the crime.

Burglary, forgery, arson, robbery, embezzlement, conspiracy, and murder are examples of specific intent crimes in California.

Defense Strategies for Specific Intent Crimes

Although there may be little doubt that you committed a criminal act, proving the crime was committed with the requisite criminal intent may be more difficult. There are many defense strategies in a case involving specific intent. Depending on the circumstances in your case, these strategies can include:

  • The defendant’s actions were accidental.
  • The defendant was acting in self-defense.
  • The defendant did not know they were committing a crime.
  • The defendant acted out of impulse rather than intent.
  • The defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense meant they were not capable of acting with the required intent.
  • The defendant’s intent was meant to achieve a different outcome.

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Orange County, CA, it’s important to protect your right to a fair trial. A conviction could mean jail time and hefty fines. It will also appear on your permanent record, which could make it difficult to get a job, qualify for a loan, or attend the school of your choice. You need an experienced Orange County, CA, criminal defense attorney, working on your behalf.

There are Few Open and Shut Criminal Cases – Speak to an Experienced Orange County, CA Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Who you choose to represent your case could be the most important decision you’ll ever make. Jim Tanizaki is a former Orange County DA turned criminal defense attorney. This unique background allows him to anticipate the state’s tactics and provide effective defenses against their charges. Jim’s representation often results in reduced or dismissed charges for his clients.

There are few open and shut criminal cases. Don’t give up – take steps to protect your rights. Contact the law office of Jim Tanizaki or call us at (714) 655-7633 to schedule a free consultation with a leading Orange County, CA criminal defense attorney.