Proving criminal intent is a burden which falls upon the prosecution.  Every case tried in the State of Florida has two aspects which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution: mens rea and actus reus.  But what do these terms mean and how are they applied? Here’s what you need to know about mens rea and actus reus: arguing “inadequate proof of intent” in South Florida.

proof of intentMens Rea and Criminal Culpability

For the establishment of criminal liability to be proven, both mens rea and actus reus must be established. Actus reus refers to the guilt in committing an act which is against the law. Mens rea, on the other hand, applies to a “guilty mind” or the desire to commit a crime.  

Thinking about committing a crime, for example, without actually committing a crime cannot be punished as a criminal act. In the same manner, engaging in a prohibited action without the necessary criminal intentions in also not punishable as a crime.

This disparity between knowingly engaging in a criminal act and unknowingly engaging in the same action can best be illustrated when it comes to homicide and manslaughter. Under Florida criminal law, homicide is the killing of an individual with criminal intent. As such, homicides can be classified by the degree to which the law distinguishes the intent of the perpetrator, such as first-degree murder. Manslaughter, on the other hand, refers to the unintentional slaying of an individual, with either reckless or negligent designations depending upon the severity of the act.

Mens rea is used to determine four distinct levels or mental states of culpability under the Model Penal Code (MPC):

  • Purposely
  • Knowingly
  • Recklessly
  • Negligently

Under the terminology listed above, “purposely” may be described as having a conscious objective to commit an illegal act. “Knowingly” refers to the knowledge or certainty that an illegal result will occur. “Recklessly” refers to disregard or gross-deviation from the standards of normal societal conduct. Finally, “negligently” refers to a failure of awareness to substantial or unjustifiable risk.

Mens Rea and Drug Crimes in Florida

In the State of Florida, most crimes require an element of mens rea to be present in order for a conviction to be possible. The exception to this rule, however, is with regards to drug crimes. Under the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, drug crimes are not required to prove mens rea for a person to be convicted of a criminal act. This ruling, while challenged on legal grounds, has been found to be constitutional.

Arrested in South Florida? Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are arrested and charged with a crime in South Florida, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight doggedly for your rights.

Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively protecting his clients from charges ranging from drug possession to murder. A former criminal prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad has the special ability to anticipate prosecution plans to help build a solid defense to help get the best possible outcome for his clients. Chad is a fierce defender of the rights of his clients who are charged with criminal offenses.

If you are looking for a passionate and experienced legal defense lawyer who will tirelessly fight for you, call Piotrowski Law today at (954) 947-5000 for a free consultation.