When someone is accused of a crime, several factors have to be considered — and one of these is whether the offense falls under crimes of general or specific intent. When the case goes to court, intent can have an impact on how the case is viewed under the law. Intent refers to whether or not the perpetrator intended to commit a crime, and, further, whether the intention was to cause the illegal act or crime that occurred.

If you have been accused of a crime, you may be wondering how intent might impact your case and what you need to do next. Working with a team of experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can help you better understand how intent may impact your charges. Here’s what you need to know about general and specific intent crimes.

Types of Intent in Nevada Crime Law

The state of Nevada has specific laws in place that relate to intent when a crime is committed, and how each is accordingly prosecuted if a defendant is found guilty. Crimes that are intentionally committed can fall under general intent, like battery, or specific intent, like aggravated battery.

Crimes with general intent involve knowingly committing a criminal act. Specific intent crimes involve knowingly committing the criminal act as well as an intent to cause a particular result by committing the act.

Criminal Intent Research

Asking the Right Questions: Which is Which?

The easiest way to explain the difference between intent when committing a crime is to ask the following questions:

  • Did the person mean to commit the act?
  • Did the person mean to commit a criminal act as well as expect and intend the result?

What is a General Intent Crime in Nevada?

General intent crimes are any crimes where there was an intention to commit an action that led up to the criminal act.

For example, if you intend to punch someone – whether or not you intend to hurt them – it can be considered battery and general intent. If you want to ram someone with your car after a road-rage incident, whether or not you foresaw or intended a car accident, it’s also considered general intent.

Some examples of general intent crimes include battery, driving under the influence, and rape. Sometimes cases of negligence also count as general intent.

What is a Specific Intent Crime in Nevada?

Specific intent crimes have to show first that the perpetrator had intended to achieve a particular result by committing the crime. In short, specific intent crimes have to show that there was a desire to intentionally commit the crime to accomplish a particular outcome.

Some examples of specific intent crimes include assault (versus battery, a general intent crime), theft, aggravated battery, and murder: Any event where someone had intentionally committed a crime and the result of the crime.

Can You Commit a Crime Without Intent?

Some types of crimes can still be committed even when there isn’t an intent to break the law. Strict liability crimes are acts that are considered criminal even when someone doesn’t know they’re breaking the law at the time. One example of a strict liability crime is statutory rape – because, by law, it’s still considered statutory rape even when the lack of legal age wasn’t known, discussed or disclosed.

In strict liability cases, it only has to be proven that the person was responsible for the action, and not that they intended it to happen – or knew they were breaking the law.

Does Intent Make a Difference?

Intent is a vital factor when someone has been charged with a crime, and it can affect the crime that they are charged with. For example, the intent is what defines the difference between battery and assault, and each carries different penalties as a result.

Yes, intent makes a difference when you’ve been charged with a crime, and the important factor is whether or not intention can be proven in court.

How Can a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

If you’ve been charged with or accused of committing a criminal act, it can be terrifying and confusing. When intent has to be proven in court, several factors have to be considered, including what the defendant’s mental state was at the time the crime was committed, and whether the act had been because of pre-meditated actions or negligence in the case of certain crimes.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can defend their client’s intention, or lack thereof, at the time of the crime.

About the Author

Mark Coburn, Esq.

Mark Coburn is a dedicated and experienced defense attorney serving the Southern Nevada area. His passion for the law and commitment to his clients has made him one of the most prominent defense attorneys in Nevada. If you’re in need of a defense attorney, contact Mark Coburn for a free consultation on your case.