Criminal offenses, or crimes, are wrongdoings committed against other persons or against other persons’ property that essentially endanger themselves and/or others. Violation of law is only a crime when it involves intent or the conscious decision to commit the criminal act, or if it seriously violates civil liberties and the common good. If you are a defendant in a criminal case, your Utah criminal attorney can work for your acquittal, or negotiate reduced penalties if you are declared guilty.
Chapter 2, Section 101 of the Utah Criminal Code has specifications regarding the classification of a crime. Breaking the law is only a crime when, first, “the person acts intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, with criminal negligence, or with a mental state otherwise specified in the statute defining the offense, as the definition of the offense requires.” Criminal negligence constitutes the unintentional harm that otherwise caused serious damage or can cause serious hazards against another person or society in general.
An offense is also classified as a crime if “the person’s acts constitute an offense involving strict liability.” In American law, strict liability applies mostly to minor crimes like statutory rape or driving under the influence. This means that a defendant need not be proven guilty (mens rea; “guilty mind”) in order to be convicted of a “guilty act” (actus reus). For example, a legal adult defendant may be guilty of having sex with a minor but is not culpable or blameworthy of the act if he was not aware of the other person’s age.
Any Utah criminal defense attorney will define “culpable mental state” as a person’s mental ability to make proper decisions to otherwise avoid committing a crime. If a person is of reasonable intelligence and of sound mind and yet commits a crime, he or she is culpable or worthy to be convicted for the act. However, a “culpable mental state” is inapplicable to someone who is insane, as he would be considered incapable of making sound decisions.
An insane person is one diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or at least mentally incapable of acting or communicating his motives for the act. In all probability, an insane person would not have a comprehensible motive to begin with. The lack of judgment also applies to minors, especially those under fourteen. As such, minors are not always held accountable for their acts.
Drugs or alcohol also have the potential to drive people to commit crimes. A Utah criminal lawyer can argue that a defendant is culpable despite being under the influence of drugs or alcohol because he could have opted not to use such substances. These can aggravate the penalty.
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