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:: A constitutional law blog by Scalia/Thomas fan David M. Wagner, M.A., J.D., Research Fellow, National Legal Foundation, and Teacher, Veritas Preparatory Academy. Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect those of the NLF or Veritas. :: bloghome | E-mail me ::

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    :: Monday, September 20, 2004 ::
    Criminal law questions

    A student asks:
    Do general and specific intent have any correlation with the concepts of mala in
    se and malum prohibitum, respectively? Some of the note portions of the text
    indicated that if something was wrong in itself, only general intent is required
    (this also supplements your in-class definition about the same evidence proving
    both the act and intent.
    I think the answer is yes. I've tried to imagine a malum prohibitum crime that is neither strict liability nor specific intent, and I haven't succeeded yet. In order for a jury to jump rationally from proof of a voluntary act to proof of mens rea, the act has to be recognizable as bad; otherwise, you're talking strict liability.

    Another student asks:
    I am still confused about the difference between specific and general intent. I
    understand the concept about specific intent being about the consequences beyond
    the act. However, could you further explain general intent to me? What are some
    other examples of general intent besides battery?
    Statutory rape might be an example, except in jurisdictions that make knowledge of the victim's age an element. Common-law rape might be another example, though there are arguments over whether, if at all, knowledge of the woman's non-consent should be an element. If it isn't, then rape is a general-intent crime.

    There's a reason why the general/specific distinction has been criticized, and why LaFave in his hornbook ignores it except for his discussion of intoxication as a defense.

    The easy part of this problem is that whenever you see a statute or a common-law definition that includes words like "with intent to..." or "with knowledge of...", you can be sure you're looking at a specific intent crime.

    :: David M. Wagner 11:22 AM [+] ::

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