1. General criminal intent.
In general intent crimes, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the
defendant intended the precise harm or result which occurred. The prosecution must prove, however,
that the accused's actions were not accidental. In other words, suppose I walk up behind you and shove
you. This is, of course, an assault and battery. General intent simply means that my act was not
accidental; i.e., I intended to shove you; I didn't trip and accidentally bump into you.
2. Specific criminal intent. In the example above, suppose when I shove you, you fall into a
desk corner, fracture your skull, and die? Is this only an assault and battery? To prove murder, the
prosecutor needs to show that I intended something more than simply to shove you--he needs to prove I
intended to kill you. In specific intent crimes, the prosecutor must prove not only that the defendant
committed the criminal act, but also that he had the intent required by the statute to commit the crime.
These crimes are easy to recognize because the statute itself sets out the specific intent required to prove
the crime. Words in a statute which make it a specific intent crime include "knowingly," "willfully,"
"for the purpose of," "premeditated design," and "with intent to."
QUESTION: HOW CAN THE PROSECUTION EVER PROVE WHAT WAS IN THE ACCUSED'S
ANSWER: FIRST, DON'T OVERLOOK THE OBVIOUS. AFTER PROPERLY ADVISING HIM OF
HIS RIGHTS, ASK THE INDIVIDUAL WHAT HE INTENDED. HE MAY WELL TELL YOU. A
CONFESSION IS THE MOST CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE OF WHAT HIS OR HER INTENT WAS
AT THE TIME OF A CRIME. ALSO, HIS WORDS OR ACTIONS AT THE TIME OF THE CRIME
MAY SHOW WHAT HIS INTENT WAS. INTENT MAY ALSO BE PROVEN THROUGH
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. A JURY MAY INFER FROM ONE'S ACTIONS THAT HE
INTENDED A CERTAIN CONSEQUENCE; A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO INTEND THE
NATURAL AND PROBABLE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTIONS. AN EXAMPLE OF THIS
CAN BE FOUND IN THE CASE OF U.S. v. AYALA, 22 MJ 77 (ACMR 1986), AFF'D 26 MJ 190
(CMA 1988). THE ACCUSED WAS CONVICTED OF THE PREMEDITATED MURDER OF HIS
WIFE AND HE APPEALED. AYALA ASSERTED THAT THE GOVERNMENT FAILED TO
INTRODUCE SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE FOR A COURT TO DETERMINE BEYOND A
REASONABLE DOUBT THAT HE HAD COMMITTED THE OFFENSE WITH A SPECIFIC
INTENT TO KILL ACCOMPANIED BY PRIOR CONSIDERATION OF HIS ACT
THE APPELLANT REPEATEDLY STRUCK HIS WIFE WITH A
THREADED OBJECT, SUCH AS A PIPE, AT LEAST 12 TIMES. THESE FORCEFUL BLOWS
RESULTED IN THE VICTIM'S MULTIPLE LACERATIONS, ABRASIONS, AND BRUISES
UNDER THE SCALP. MULTIPLE SKULL FRACTURES RESULTED IN SEVEN LOOSE BONE
PIECES. THE VICTIM ALSO RECEIVED A PUNCTURE-TYPE WOUND OF THE LEFT ELBOW
AND A ROUND HOLE-TYPE WOUND OVER HER RIGHT EAR WHICH RESULTED IN
PROFUSE BLEEDING. IN AFFIRMING AYALA'S CONVICTION, THE COURT CONCLUDED
THAT EVIDENCE OF THE VICIOUSNESS OF THE ASSAULT WAS SUFFICIENT
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE FOR THE TRIAL COURT TO CONCLUDE AYALA HAD
FORMED BOTH THE SPECIFIC INTENT AND THE PREMEDITATED DESIGN TO KILL.
The issue of intent is relevant to the availability of certain defenses. As an example, voluntary
intoxication does not negate a general intent crime. Voluntary intoxication, however, may be presented
to negate the specific intent element of a particular crime. Voluntary intoxication, then, may be a