Offenses in Michigan are Either General Intent or Specific Intent Crimes

With only a few exceptions, a felony or misdemeanor must be committed with general or specific intent.

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Michigan Seriously Needs To Reform its Criminal Laws

Criminal Intent can be specific or general. This means that some criminal offenses require that you specifically intend a particular result, and others require a general intent to commit a crime or knowing criminal act. The issue in Michigan is that some local communities have different criminal statutes, which can drastically differ from community to community. It is unreasonable and unfair to the public to have the same crime in two different cities or municipalities that require dissimilar evidence and proof.

An Extreme Example to Illustrate

For example, littering in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a misdemeanor. So, if you go to a Michigan football game, drop a plastic cup, and do not pick it up, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. The problem is that many people come to football games from out of town and do not realize they are facing misdemeanor charges if they litter. Littering is an example of a general intent crime, not a specific intent offense. Misdemeanors are part of a criminal record and can hurt job prospects, graduate school admission, or loan applications, to name a few. It seems silly, doesn’t it? There is a need for uniformity of punishments for criminal offenses in Michigan. Reform is not only necessary, it should be required. The best defense to any criminal charge is a reputable defense lawyer with a reputation for providing the highest caliber representation. A defense attorney can consult with you if you are accused of committing a crime. Knowing whether the offense requires general or specific criminal intent can help you evaluate your options and defense.

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How does the prosecutor prove a defendant’s intent?

Proving a defendant’s intent is a crucial aspect of many criminal prosecutions. Still, it can also be one of the more challenging elements because intent is a mental state and not directly observable. Here’s how prosecutors typically approach this:

  • Direct Evidence: In rare cases, there may be direct evidence of intent, such as a statement by the defendant indicating their intent. This could be something they said, wrote, or communicated in some way that shows what they were thinking or planning.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: More commonly, prosecutors rely on circumstantial evidence. This includes behavior or actions of the defendant that suggest a particular intent. For example, planning, stealth, or specific actions leading to the crime can indicate intent.
  • Inferences from Conduct: Prosecutors often argue that a defendant’s intent can be inferred from what they did and how they did it. For instance, if someone broke into a house and stole valuables, the prosecutor might argue that their actions demonstrate an intent to commit theft.
  • Expert Testimony: Sometimes, expert witnesses are used to help establish intent, especially in complex cases involving mental health issues or sophisticated crimes.
  • Pattern of Behavior: In some cases, showing a pattern of behavior can help establish intent. This is often used in cases involving fraud or serial offenses.

Regarding general intent versus specific criminal intent:

  • General Intent: Proving general criminal intent typically involves showing that the defendant intended to perform the act that constitutes the crime. For example, in an assault case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to hit the victim. The focus is on the act itself rather than the outcome.
  • Specific Intent: Proving specific criminal intent is more complex, as it involves demonstrating that the defendant had a particular purpose or desired outcome in mind when committing the act. This requires more nuanced evidence showing not just that the defendant intended to do the act, but also intended to achieve a specific result. For instance, in a burglary case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant not only intended to break into a building (the act) but did so with the specific intent to commit a theft inside (the desired outcome).

The difference in proving general versus specific intent primarily lies in the level of detail and specificity of the defendant’s state of mind that the prosecutor needs to establish. Specific intent crimes require more proof regarding the defendant’s mindset and the purpose behind their actions.

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Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys That Are Specialists In Representing People Facing Federal, State, and Local Offenses

LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is the Michigan criminal defense law firm that can help you with criminal law problems, issues, and questions (regarding general or specific criminal intent or anything else). The firm was founded on the principle that everyone is entitled to the best possible defense for fair and affordable rates. In line with that principle, the firm’s lawyers take their obligations very seriously. A client of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can expect effective, aggressive, and passionate representation. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. goes the extra mile and leaves no stone unturned to ensure its clients are given the best possible defense. The firm has a sterling reputation for success and respect. Our defense lawyers know that there are various defenses to both general and specific intent crimes, and we will leave no stone unturned in the search for a defense for your case.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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