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How intent defines punishment

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2016 | Criminal Defense

In Illinois criminal courts, a concept called mens rea may play a role in how a case is decided. The terms is Latin for guilty mind and tries to differentiate between crimes committed intentionally and acts that inadvertently led to a crime being committed. For instance, there is generally a difference between a driver hitting a pedestrian intentionally compared to someone who didn’t see that person until it was too late.

For the person who hit the pedestrian by accident, he or she will most likely be liable for civil damages only. This means that he or she may owe a financial penalty but will not go to jail or face other criminal sanctions. However, in the case of the person who intended to hit the pedestrian and cause harm, he or she will most likely face criminal penalties.

The law also differentiates between careless and criminal activity. For instance, leaving a bike on the sidewalk that someone else trips over probably wouldn’t rise to the level of criminal activity. This may result in civil damages against the person who left the bike where it could cause harm. However, if an individual left a dangerous object on the sidewalk, it could be considered criminal.

Those who are facing criminal charges may wish to talk to a defense attorney about how to combat them. There are a variety of strategies that can be employed, but in many cases they will depend upon the nature of the charges or the circumstances leading up to the time that the defendant was taken into custody by authorities.


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