Examining Criminal Responsibility

Criminal Responsibility

Accusations of a crime entail serious consequences and, in some cases, result in severe penalties upon conviction. However, various factors determine a person’s criminal responsibility when charged with an offense. In criminal law, we presume individuals innocent until proven guilty in criminal proceedings or until they confess.

Standard Of Proof

The government has to prove that every element of the crime is beyond a reasonable doubt. This not only includes providing convincing evidence against the offender also known as the defendant but also presenting the evidence in a way that makes a reasonable person would not doubt it. Prosecutors must meet a high standard of proof, showing beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

Two Types Of Intent

The intention behind a criminal act is the pivotal element in all crimes, defining criminal responsibility. Two types of intent exist: specific intent and general intent. A specific intent crime occurs when an individual knowingly, purposely, and willingly commits the offense charged. For example, if someone was to shoot a gun thinking that it was a toy and accidentally discharged it. The defense can claim that there was no intent to harm or kill anyone.

General intent involves simply committing a criminal action, demonstrating that the individual charged with the offense intended to engage in criminal behavior, including illegal acts like criminal mischief. For instance, if someone stated that they set a building on fire but that they did not intend to destroy it. This is general intent as the action of starting a fire is enough evidence to show they were an arsonist or decided to destroy property.

What Does Criminal Responsibility Mean?

This term represents the person’s awareness and comprehension of their action and signifies the legal obligation a person has to answer for their crime. A person commits an offense with intention, recklessness, or negligence. To classify an action as a crime, the perpetrator must possess a criminal mind, or mens rea, demonstrating one or all of the four key elements at the act’s time. The mental state is crucial in helping define criminal responsibility as there are many different opinions this gives a criminal act criteria to what is a crime.

Criminal law also requires additional conditions beyond the criminal mental state for an individual to bear criminal responsibility for an act. For example, there is no legal justification for action, even if there might have evidently been a “necessity” to commit a criminal act. Furthermore, specific personal characteristics do not excuse the subject from criminal responsibility; this depends on the defense employed by your defense attorney. This includes the lack of mental capacity to comprehend that the action they committed was criminal in nature, although there have been cases of dementia that play into the effect of criminal responsibility.

A person charged with a criminal act must understand that their actions were wrong to be held responsible. Assessing the criminal responsibility of a young child presents significant challenges.

How Age Affects Criminal Responsibility

In Texas, the law considers individuals under 17 as juveniles, generally exempt from adult trial for crimes, except under specific circumstances, as outlined in Texas Penal Code 8.07. These specific exceptions to the Texas Penal Code include perjury or aggravated perjury, where it appears by proof that the person had sufficient discretion to understand the nature and obligation of an oath. Many people disagree with the Texas age of criminal responsibility as they feel young adults do not have the full mental capacity to understand the criminal act they have committed nor the consequences that will follow.

Criminally Responsible For Another Party

There can be situations where the defendant can be criminally responsible for someone else conduct. If the defendant intentionally acts to aid, encourage, direct, or attempt to aid another in committing an offense, they bear criminal responsibility. Also to note if the offense is a felony and during the act of committing a felony offense, if a second felony offense was to occur all parties involved would be responsible for the criminal activity. In cases where a party commits a second felony, all members may face charges, even if only one committed the crime.

Criminal Responsibility Evaluations

The prosecution must be able to show that the offender has all five characteristics of criminal responsibility for there to be a criminal conviction. Courts typically order these evaluations, but defendants, defense attorneys, or prosecutors can request them. They assess the individual’s mental state at the time of the crime to determine legal accountability. The focus of evaluations is the circumstances that surrounded the crime such as if there were any mental health issues or a history of substance abuse. These evaluations are performed in retrospect review of the person’s mental status at the time they committed the criminal act.

Specialized professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or forensic mental health evaluators conduct these assessments, which vary by state despite consistent federal evaluation criteria for criminal responsibility.

Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Legal professionals must consider potential neurodegenerative illnesses when assessing criminal responsibility. Neurodegenerative illness can potentially be related to the defendant’s age but it is always good to check even if the client is young as they could have previous brain traumatic injuries unbeknownst to the defense attorney or court. The court will have to prove that the defendant with dementia or other illness is competent enough to understand their criminally responsible actions and to stand trial. Neurodegenerative illness can cloud a person’s judgment and may lead to violent behavior, lack of self-awareness, and even poor emotional processing abilities.

Competency To Stand Trial

The court will determine if the defendant is competent to stand trial but it is up to either party or the trial court to raise the motion. According to Texas Criminal Code Art. 46B.003, it states a person is incompetent to stand trial if the person does not have the sufficient present ability to consult with the person’s lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding. If the person does not have a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against the person.

Although, the court presumes the defendant’s competence to stand trial and will find them competent unless proven otherwise by preponderance of evidence. So unless our defense attorney raises the motion that the defendant is incompetent you are automatically assumed to be competent. It is always best, to be honest with your attorney about what you understand and what you do not as it can only be beneficial to you and your case.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget that when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We are committed to actively working in your best interest and securing the most favorable outcome for you. Our goal is to provide comprehensive guidance on your trial and help you mount the strongest defense possible. We’ll guide you through the criminal process step by step, ensuring you understand every aspect of your case.

Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our experienced criminal law attorneys actively construct a defense case tailored to your needs, aiming for the best possible outcome to benefit you.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we offer free consultations at your convenience. You may choose to have your appointment be via Zoom, google meet, email, or an in-person appointment; and we will provide you with as much advice and information as possible so you can have the best possible result in your case.

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