Articles Posted in Intent

California Penal code §594 makes it unlawful for any person to maliciously deface, damage or destroy the personal property of another.

The keyword in a malicious mischief charge is the word malicious. The intent required must be malicious and must be proven to that level by Prosecutors. The act must be carried out with the specific intent to want to cause injury or damage to another, and you intended to commit a wrongful act. If this element is not present, then there is no valid case against you.

Let’s consider two examples. In example A, Dan wants to surprise his girlfriend on her birthday with a new car. He thinks it would be a creative way to tell her by destroying the old car that she drives and parking the new one right next to it. So while she is at work, he goes to her office and pours paint all over her car and writes “Happy Birthday!” all over the old vehicle. Unknown to Dan, is that his girlfriend has driven her father’s car to work, and her co-worker has the exact same car. Dan has actually destroyed the co-workers car.

Many of our clients ask us whether or not intent is an important element in their criminal case. Meaning, if the act was an accident, can I still be found liable?

Intent is , in fact, a crucial element in the Prosecutor’s case against a person, and also one that is difficult to prove. Because it is impossible to read a person’s thoughts during an act, proving a person’s mental state, or mens rea, is complex to prove in a court of law.

To prove intent or knowledge, the Prosecutor will turn to facts surrounding the event and the circumstances behind it. In a murder case, the lack of intent could mean the significant difference between a life sentence and 10 to 25 years in jail. In a simpler criminal case, it could mean that your case could possibly be dismissed.