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Examining Criminal Responsibility

Criminal Responsibility

Being accused of a crime comes with serious consequences with it, and carries heavy consequences in some cases if you are convicted of the crime you are being charged with. However, there are many factors that will determine if a person who is being charged with a criminal act is in fact criminally responsible. The foundation of criminal law is that a person is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty whether by a criminal proceeding or through their own confession.

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. The standard of proof has to be not only logically explicable but also that the only possible outcome is that the defendant committed the crime he or she is being charged with.

Two Types Of Intent

The intention of a criminal act is the key element in all crimes committed and defines the criminal responsibility in a crime. The two types of intent are specific intent and general intent. Specific intent is when a crime was perpetrated knowingly, purposely, and willingly by the person being charged with the criminal act. 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.

The general intent is merely the act of committing a criminal action and shows that the person being charged with the criminal act intention was to commit a crime which includes illegal 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. It is defined as a person who commits an offense with intention, recklessness, or negligence. For any type of action to be considered a crime, the offender must have a criminal mind also known as mens rea. For an act to be considered criminal, the person committing the criminal act must have one or all of the four key elements when they committed the act. 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.

There are also additional criminal law conditions besides the criminal mental state that must be fulfilled in order for someone to be found criminally responsible for a criminal act committed. For example, there is no legal justification for action, even if there might have evidently been a “necessity” to commit a criminal act. Also, the subject is not excused from criminal responsibility because of specific personal characteristics, this depends on the defense that is used 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.

In general, for a person being charged for a criminal act to be held responsible for the criminal act committed, the person must understand that what they did was wrong. This can be difficult to distinguish if a young child can be held criminally responsible for a criminal act committed.

How Age Affects Criminal Responsibility

In the state of Texas, a person under 17 is considered a juvenile and is normally not to be tried as an adult for crimes they may have committed. The Texas Penal Code 8.07 continues to include that anyone under the age of 15 may be prosecuted for or convicted of any offense unless it is under a specific circumstance. 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 does an act in which they ask, encourage, direct aid, or even attempt to aid another person in the act of an offense the defendant can be held criminally responsible. 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. This occurs even if only one member of the party was to commit the second felony alone, everyone would in the party would still be charged.

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. These evaluations are typically directed by the court or can be requested by the defendant, defense attorney, or prosecutor. 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.

The evaluation looks to see if the person who committed the crime can be held accountable by the law. These assessments are conducted by several different providers who hold specialized education in fields such as psychology, psychiatry, or forensic mental health evaluators. Even though criminal responsibility is evaluated consistently at a federal level every time, there is a difference at the state level where each state can have additional statutes that have to be followed.

Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Legal professionals must also be considered that when they are assessing if someone is criminally responsible or not, is the possibility that the person may have a neurodegenerative illness. 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, a defendant is presumed to be competent to stand trial and shall be found competent to stand trial unless proven incompetent by preponderance 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 will work and be in your best interest for you and we will obtain the best possible outcome that can benefit you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and how to best defend your case. We can help you step by step through the criminal process.

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. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that can benefit you.

Also, here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, you are given a free consultation 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.

Call us now at (281) 810-9760

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