Is Mens Rea Disappearing in Federal Criminal Courts?

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, federal charges, state criminal charges,In order to be found guilty of a crime, traditionally the prosecutor had to prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt: that the defendant charged with a crime both did in fact commit the criminal act (the “actus reus”) and did so while having the intent to violate the law (the “mens rea”). Requiring both a guilty act and a guilty mind has traditionally been a protection afforded to those charged with crimes and has served to focus prosecutors’ attention on those defendants who are more deserving of punishment due to their willful actions. But recent reports and stories suggest that more and more federal crimes are being created that do not require any “guilty mind” in order for a person to be found guilty.

The Importance of Mens Rea

 Typically, criminal statutes require some sort of “guilty mindset” in order to support a criminal charge. It would be unfair, for example, to convict someone of murder when that person did not mean or intend to kill the other person. Most criminal statutes require, at the very least, some knowledge or an awareness that one’s actions might result in a certain consequence. The traditional exception was traffic infractions and local ordinance violations. Because these offenses are generally minor and result in only the payment of a fine, it was generally accepted that no specific intent to violate the traffic law or ordinance had to be proven. But now reports and stories suggest citizens are being fined, placed on probation, and (in some cases) given prison sentences without the prosecution having to show any intent to violate the law at all.

But I Did Not Mean to Break the Law – Does That Matter?

Your lack of intent to violate the law may factor into whether the government wishes to offer you a plea deal or what sort of sentence you may receive from the judge. However, at the conclusion of a trial, the jury is instructed as to what it needs to find beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find you guilty. A jury that follows the law in your federal criminal case wherein you are charged with one of these “no intent” crimes will have no choice but to find you guilty so long as it believes you committed the criminal act, regardless of whether you meant to do it or not.

Get Help from an Illinois Federal Crimes Defense Attorney

When you are charged with a federal crime – especially one that does not require proof of intent – it is essential that you obtain help from experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney Hal M. Garfinkel. He will ensure the government is required to prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, even if the crime does not require intention. He will also ensure your rights are protected and you are treated fairly by the court. Contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today at 312-270-0999 for a free consultation.

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