The Four Levels of Intent in a Federal Criminal Case: Get the Facts and Learn What Your Options Are

The Four Levels of Intent in a Federal Criminal Case: Get the Facts and Learn What Your Options Are

There are many elements to a federal criminal case. In most cases, the prosecution must prove that the accused acted with intent. There are several categories of intent that can be applicable. Read on to learn about them and then contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 if you are facing federal criminal charges and require a free legal consultation with a federal defense attorney.

  1. The accused acted knowingly
  2. Many federal criminal charges only require the government to show that the defendant acted “knowingly.” This generally signifies that the defendant was aware of what they were doing but may not have realized that their actions were against the law. The defendant’s lack of knowledge that their actions were unlawful would not be a valid defense in a criminal proceeding that only requires this level of intent.

  3. The accused acted willfully
  4. Numerous federal criminal laws use the word “willfully” in their descriptions. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “the phrase ‘willfully’ means no more than that the unlawful act was done with knowledge and intentional intent and does not require proof of bad intent.

    When something is done voluntarily, intentionally, and with the specific intent of breaking the law, it is said to have been done “willfully.” In order to establish that a defendant acted “willfully,” the government is not required to demonstrate the defendant had bad intentions.

  5. The accused acted with general intent
  6. “General intent” is one of the most frequently used levels of intent in federal criminal statutes. This idea implies that the defendant’s behavior had a specific goal in mind. For example, in a case of hacking, the government need only demonstrate that the defendant intended to gain unauthorized access to a computer in general; they are not required to demonstrate that the defendant also had the specific intention of using that access to illegally obtain the data of another person (or the government).

  7. The accused acted with specific intent
  8. The mens rea of specific intent is committing a criminal act with the intention of achieving a desired outcome. Most of the time, “specific intent” does not mean “intent to violate a specific statute.” Many federal fraud statutes include the element of specific purpose. In this situation, intent encompasses both knowing and purposeful actions.

Contact a criminal defense attorney if you have questions

If you are facing criminal charges or have questions about intent in federal cases, contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 for a free legal consultation. Attorney Chambers can use his many years of experience to find the best possible path forward on your case.

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