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The 3 types of criminal intent

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Intent does not matter in every criminal case. Someone may not have had any intent to break the law, but they still did so negligently or ignorantly. They could still face charges. Just because someone doesn’t know what the legal limit is, for instance, they could still be arrested if they drive under the influence.

But there are other cases in which intent is a major part of the proceedings. One example is a murder case. Most first-degree murder charges require intent because the action has to be premeditated. If not, the individual may get a much lesser sentence, such as manslaughter. Below are three different types of intent to keep in mind.

General intent

General intent is something that the authorities assume based on the actions that the person took. An example of this is breaking the speed limit. There are cases where someone may just not know what the speed limit is, but it is generally assumed that someone who is driving 80 or 90 miles an hour intends to do so.

Specific intent

Specific intent is the type used in murder cases, conspiracy cases, burglary cases and other serious situations. Specific intent often requires pre-planning and pre-meditation. Breaking the law was always the goal, and the person thought about how they would do so in advance.

Constructive intent

Finally, constructive intent is often just an example of negligence. It may have been an unintentional act that the person didn’t carry out on purpose, but they were still negligent in some way and did not take the proper steps that they should have to keep another person safe. An example of this is when a car strikes a pedestrian.

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s very important to understand how intent may play a role in your case. Be sure you know what legal options you have.


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