Intent Definition and Legal Meaning
On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Intent, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.
What is Intent?
It refers to mental state of a person while performing a certain act. It refes to the desire to perform that act at that time. Such state of mind could have an influence of the surroundings too at the time of performing that act. Thus in a trial, it is very necessary for the attornies to make sure that intent of the person for commiting the crime.
History and Meaning of Intent
Intent is an important concept in criminal law. The term refers to the mental state of a person at the time of performing a certain act. Specifically, it refers to the desire or aim to perform that act at that time. Intent can be classified into two categories: general and specific intent.
General intent refers to the intent to commit an act that is inherently wrong, such as hitting someone with a baseball bat. Specific intent refers to the intent to achieve a particular outcome, such as stealing an object.
In court cases where intent is an issue, prosecutors have the burden of proving that the defendant had the necessary intent to commit the crime. Defense attorneys will often argue that their client lacked the requisite intent and therefore cannot be convicted of the crime.
Examples of Intent
John broke into a store and stole hundreds of dollars' worth of merchandise. The prosecutor must prove that John intended to steal the merchandise and did not just accidentally stumble across it.
Susan hit Tom with a baseball bat. The prosecutor must prove that Susan intended to hit Tom with the bat; if she merely swung the bat without any intention of hitting Tom, she cannot be convicted of assault.
Mark threw a rock at a window and broke the glass. The prosecutor must prove that Mark intended to break the glass and was not just throwing the rock for fun.
Legal Terms Similar to Intent
Mens rea: This Latin term refers to the mental state required for a particular crime; it is similar to the concept of intent.
Motive: Motive refers to the reason why a person committed a crime; it is not the same as intent, but it can be used as evidence to prove intent.
Recklessness: Recklessness refers to a state of mind in which a person consciously takes a risk that could result in harm to others; it is a lesser mental state than intent, but it can still result in criminal charges.