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Definition of General Intent
Let's say that you are hanging out with a group of friends. You're laughing and teasing each other. However, one of your friends hits on a sore spot and makes fun of your mom. Your response is to punch your friend in the face.
This is considered battery and a general intent crime. You meant to hurt your friend, but your intention was not to break his nose, which you also did. If you had intended all along to break your friend's nose, this would be aggravated battery and a specific intent crime.
Essentially, general intent crimes occur when a person intends to commit a certain crime, but the end result of the crime was not the person's intention. Specific intent is where you intended to commit the crime and intended for the result of the crime as well. An example of specific intent would be premeditated murder. Premeditated means there was a plan for the result of death, which makes this specific intent. Premeditation usually is involved with specific intent.
People who are also accused and convicted of general intent crimes, may not know that they were doing anything against the law at the time. They may have broken a law by accident, but still broke the law: this would be a general intent crime.
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Types of Crimes
Let's look at different crimes that can be considered general intent. You might be surprised to find out how many severe crimes are considered general intent:
- Rape: Although a horrific crime, it's considered general intent. This is because it's hard to prove that there's any other motive but sexual violation.
- Assault is another type of general intent crime.
- Battery, as previously stated, is usually not premeditated, so there's no result expected other than to assault someone.
- Manslaughter infers that there was no planning or premeditation to the crime: instead the crime was carried out by accident or in severe reaction in a bad situation - for example, getting into a violent fight with someone when you are drunk and accidentally hitting them hard enough to make them fall, crack their head, and die. This is unintentional, and you did not want the end result.
- Arson: Most arsonists' goals are to set something on fire, no expectation of additional results other than the fire itself, which is what makes this a general intent crime. However, if the crime is a fire to cover up a murder or a fire used to murder someone, this would be specific intent.
- Driving under the influence (or DUIs) and the damage done as a result of driving while under the influence, is almost always general intent. The person drunk is just wanting to drink and be intoxicated, so any accidents or deaths that result were not desired results.
A general intent crime occurs when a person commits a specific crime but does not intend for another type of crime to be committed in the process, while specific intent crimes are crimes that are committed with the intent of additional results. General intent crimes are not less severe crimes; instead they are usually crimes with little to no premeditation. In other words, the person committing the crime that did not think of the consequences and how they would affect others. Examples of general intent crimes can include rape, assault, battery, manslaughter, arson, and driving under the influence.
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General Intent Crimes: Definition & Examples
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