Criminal Defenses in Kansas: Understanding Lack of Intent

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What is Lack of Intent as a Defense in Kansas?

A defendant may argue lack of intent as a defense in Overland Park to a charge where they did not possess the necessary criminal intent at the time they committed the unlawful act. 

For a defendant to be found guilty in a criminal case, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Most crimes consist of two elements - actus reus and mens rea. 

Actus reus is the defendant's physical actions or conduct. Mens rea (“guilty mind”) is the defendant's mental state or criminal intent at the time of the act. For a defendant to be criminally responsible for a crime, they must possess the required intent when they do the act.

At McLane Law Firm, we can examine your case and determine whether a lack of intent is a good defense. Call us today at 913-322-4716 or fill out an online form today to schedule a free 10-minute consultation.

Example of Lack of Intent as a Defense in Kansas

In most jurisdictions, a defendant is guilty of theft where they:

  • take someone else's property without the person's permission (actus reus)
  • with the intent to permanently deprive the person of it (mens rea)

So, a defendant who borrows their neighbor's lawnmower, forgets to return it, and is later charged with theft may be able to defend the charge based on lack of intent. When they took the lawnmower, they didn't intend to permanently deprive their neighbor of it. 

When Lack of Intent Does Not Apply

Lack of intent in Kansas is not a defense for ignorance of the law. Someone can intentionally commit an act that they do not know is illegal and still be held criminally liable.  Driving your car without a functioning tag light that leads to a DUI arrest is not a defense under a "mistake of law" defense.  

Lack of intent also cannot be used as a defense to strict liability offenses. For a strict liability offense, the prosecution is not required to prove the defendant's criminal intent, only that the defendant did the act.   Running a stop sign is an example of a "strict liability" offense.  

General and Specific Intent Crime in Overland Park

Some states make a distinction between general and specific intent crimes. 

General intent crimes simply require the defendant to have intended to do the act. The defendant does not need to intend or anticipate a specific outcome of their actions. Simple assault is usually a general intent crime - the defendant only needs to intend to hit the victim, not to cause them a specific injury.

To defend a general intent crime based on lack of intent, the defense needs to demonstrate the absence of any intent on the defendant's behalf.  For example, one can argue a medical condition beyond their control caused their behavior on the specific occasion that led to their arrest.  One who suffers a seizure while driving can not form intent when he drives recklessly onto the sidewalk and injures a pedestrian.  The medical condition is a defense to a reckless driving or battery charge against the driver as there was no intent in this instance. 

For a specific intent crime, the prosecution must prove the defendant acted intending to achieve a desired outcome. For example, burglary requires a person to enter a property with the intent to commit a crime.  

A successful defense to a specific intent crime needs to highlight that the defendant did not intend the specific outcome when they did the act, even if they possessed general intent. 

How Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Overland Park Use Lack of Intent as a Defense?

As illustrated above, a defense lawyer can use lack of intent to highlight the prosecution's failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed the necessary intent when they did an unlawful act. 

A defense lawyer can also argue lack of intent using defenses such as: 

  • mistake of fact, where the defendant held a reasonable but mistaken belief as to the facts of the situation
  • involuntary intoxication, where the defendant was unable to form the necessary intent

The defenses available in an individual case depend on the specific circumstances. At McLane Law Firm, we understand each case is unique and we will help you craft a defense to clear your name. Call us at 913-322-4716 or fill out an online contact form today to schedule your free 10-minute consultation.

McLane Law Firm

Matt McLane has been defending individuals charged with DUI, traffic and criminal offenses since his graduation from Washburn University Law School in 1996. Licensed in the states of Kansas and Missouri. Mr. McLane specializes in DUI and criminal defense throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area.

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Mr. McLane´s clients benefit from his experience and reputation of being a respected, professional attorney with a strong work ethic who is committed to successfully resolving every client´s legal challenges in a Timely and Professional manner.

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