Specific Intent Crimes
To be guilty of a specific intent crime, the defendant must have the required specific intent
which is more than an attempt to accomplish the
at the time he is accomplishing the
. For example, in the specific intent crime of larceny, the defendant must have the intent to deprivethe possessor of his property at the time he engages in the tresspassory taking.If the statute requires that a defendant must have acted with the specific intent of “knowingly”,the prosecution must prove that the defendant must have been practically certain that his conduct would
cause damage.Ordinarily the mental state of maliciousness is associated with an intentional act, but it can
also be present where the defendant acts recklessly.
In the construction of a statute which does not include language requiring fault, a court mayimpose liability without fault (i.e., strict liability) after consideration of a number of factors. Thesefactors include legislative history, the severity of the punishment for the crime, the seriousness of harmto the public created by the criminal activity, a defendant's opportunities to be informed of the factswhich lead to an offense, the difficulty of proving a
, and the number of violations and prosecutions likely to occur. No mental state is required for the defendant to be guilty of a strict liability offense. Thedefendant is guilty if he accomplishes the
.A principal can be guilty of a strict liability offense for an act performed by his agent which iswithin his scope of authority. Specifically forbidding such agent to perform an illegal act is not adefense.To be guilty of an attempt to commit a strict liability offense as distinguished from guilt of thecrime itself, the defendant must have the specific intent to commit the offense.
Mistake of Fact and law
Neither a mistake of law nor a mistake of fact whether reasonable or unreasonable is a defenseto a strict liability offense.While a reasonable mistake of fact is a defense to a general intent crime, neither a mistake of law nor an unreasonable mistake of fact are a defense to a general intent crime.Both a reasonable and unreasonable mistake of fact and a mistake of law which prevent thespecific intent from being formed are valid defenses to a specific intent crime.If a crime requires the specific intent of “knowing” and the defendant subjectively does notknow that his actions are criminal because he has relied on the erroneous advice of a lawyer, he is notguilty of the crime.