Two Parts to Every Crime
For those who follow the news closely, and particularly when it comes to politics, the last few days have been turbulent to say the least. The headlines have been filled with stories about the final decision by the FBI on not to indict a former Secretary of State over mishandling classified materials. Understandably, this result produced vehement reaction on both sides of the aisle about the justice or lack thereof of what was announced.
Regardless of how you feel about these developments, the story itself is a good lesson in criminal law and how law enforcement gets from investigation to indictment. As the FBI director laid out his case, or lack of one, he referred many times to how the Feds investigate criminal acts, and how they hand the case to prosecutors for prosecution.
Much of the press conference held by the FBI director and his decisions revolved around two main themes. Under the law, for a person to commit a crime, there has to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of two things in every case: a criminal act and a criminal mind.
Actus Reus – A Guilty Act
The first prong of proving a crime is to show that the suspect engaged in criminal act(s).
Where are behaviors criminalized?
Criminal acts are defined in a statute, rule, or regulation passed by a state, federal government, or a military command. Those criminal acts can range from criminal homicide to stealing. In fact, it is truly stunning when one thinks about how many acts are defined as criminal in one way or another throughout the tome of laws that each of us lives under.
But proving that someone acted in a criminal way is not enough to convict someone of a crime. For example, it is a crime to hit someone in the face. That is a criminal battery. But there are times when it is perfectly legal to hit another person in the face, in a boxing match, or in lawful self-defense. That is where the second part to any criminal charge comes to bear.
Mens Rea – A Guilty Mind
For those of us who went to law school, the concept of mens rea was probably one of the more difficult concepts to understand at first. Mens rea literally means guilty mind, and it is the criminal intent that every prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt in every case. But how does a prosecutor prove what happens in a person’s mind during the commission of criminal act?
In the world of proving and defending crimes, the way criminal intent is proved and disproved is through circumstantial evidence. So if a person is accused of murder, and there is circumstantial evidence showing that the accused held a longstanding and bitter grudge against the victim, that is some circumstantial evidence of a criminal intent after showing the act was committed.
Defending Your Rights
There are more parts to a criminal case than can be discussed in this post, it is needless to say that every criminal case is extremely complex, and requires the skill and experience of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Jeff King has worked as both a prosecutor and defender, and therefore has the experience and skill needed to defend your case. If you are facing the prospect of a criminal prosecution, are are already in that situation contact us today.