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Criminal Intent: All about a State of Mind

April 14th, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Illinois defense attorney, mens rea, Illinois criminal lawyer, Many crimes are made up of two parts: an action and a mental state. One example is where one person kills another. Depending on the person’s mental state when he or she kills the other person, he or she could be guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, or maybe no crime at all. When it comes to certain crimes, much of what a criminal defense attorney winds up doing at trial is showing a judge or jury that the defendant did not have the required mental state to commit the crime. Each of these mental states has a specific legal definition set out by state statute.

Acting Intentionally

One mental state is “intent” or “acting intentionally.” For a person to be found guilty of a crime that requires that he or she have intent or act intentionally, he or she must have the conscious objective or purpose of accomplishing the result of that crime or engaging in the conduct of that crime.

Acting Knowingly

Acting knowingly or knowing something is a slightly less overt mental state than acting intentionally. A person acts knowingly if one of two possible scenarios apply to him or her. These scenarios are:

  • A person acts knowingly or with knowledge of the nature or attendant circumstances of his or her conduct when he or she is consciously aware that his or her conduct of that nature or that those circumstances exist.
  • A person acts knowingly or with knowledge of the result of his or her conduct if he or she is consciously aware that the result is practically certain to be caused by his or her conduct.

It is important to note that if a statute requires a “knowing” state of mind but the evidence establishes the defendant acted “intentionally,” then that is good enough. If someone has acted intentionally they have also acted knowingly under the law.

Recklessness

Legally speaking, a person is reckless if he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances will exist or a result will follow and that disregard is a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in that situation. In other words, a person is reckless if he or she consciously ignores a major obvious risk and in doing so does not exercise the same level of care that a normal person could be expected to under the circumstances.

Negligence

If a person fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or a result will follow and that failure constitutes a substantial deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, then that person has acted negligently.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

If you or someone you love is being investigated for or has been charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today at (847)394-3200. Christopher Cosley has spent his career fighting for people like you.

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