Almost all crimes have a mens rea, or mental state. The prosecutor has to prove that the accused has a criminal mental state before the person can be convicted. The reason for this rule is that identical conduct can be criminal or legal, depending on what the person is thinking. The thug in the alley who shoots a guy for his wallet is a murderer. The soldier who shoots the enemy is a hero. Outwardly, there is no difference in their basic conduct – they shoot and kill someone. What matters is why they did it? One is greedy and does not value human life. The other is defending a way of life he and his country hold dear.Since there is no way to read minds, we have to look at the outward circumstances to infer what a person was thinking. The fact that our alley shooter stole the dead man’s wallet suggests he shot him for the wallet, which suggests a criminal motive. The fact our soldier is in uniform suggests he is fighting for his country, which suggests pure motive. It is through the evidence that a jury reaches conclusions about whether the prosecution has proved that the defendant “held a culpable mental state” at the time of the crime. The various type of mens rea are discussed below.
When criminal intent is an element of a crime, such intent is indicated by the term "intentionally", the phrase "with intent to", the phrase "with intent that", or some form of the verbs "know" or "believe".
"Know" requires only that the actor believes that the specified fact exists.
"Intentionally" means that the actor either has a purpose to do the thing or cause the result specified, or is aware that his or her conduct is practically certain to cause that result. In addition the actor must have knowledge of those facts which are necessary to make his or her conduct criminal and which are set forth after the word "intentionally".
"With intent to" or "with intent that" means that the actor either has a purpose to do the thing or cause the result specified, or is aware that his or her conduct is practically certain to cause that result.
Criminal intent does not require proof of knowledge of the existence or constitutionality of the section under which the actor is prosecuted or the scope or meaning of the terms used in that section.
Criminal intent does not require proof of knowledge of the age of a minor even though age is a material element in the crime in question.Criminal Recklessness
"Criminal recklessness" means that the actor creates an unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm to another human being and the actor is aware of that risk.
If criminal recklessness is an element of a crime, the recklessness is indicated by the term "reckless" or "recklessly".
A voluntarily produced intoxicated or drugged condition is not a defense to liability for criminal recklessness if, had the actor not been in that condition, he or she would have been aware of creating an unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm to another human being.Criminal Negligence
"Criminal negligence" means ordinary negligence to a high degree, consisting of conduct that the actor should realize creates a substantial and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to another.
If criminal negligence is an element of a crime, the negligence is indicated by the term "negligent" or "negligently".Solicitation
Whoever, with intent that a felony be committed, advises another to commit that crime under circumstances that indicate unequivocally that he or she has the intent is guilty of a Class H felony.
For a solicitation to commit a crime for which the penalty is life imprisonment, the actor is guilty of a Class F felony. For a solicitation to commit a Class I felony, the actor is guilty of a Class I felony.Conspiracy
Whoever, with intent that a crime be committed, agrees or combines with another for the purpose of committing that crime may, if one or more of the parties to the conspiracy does an act to effect its object, be fined or imprisoned or both not to exceed the maximum provided for the completed crime; except that for a conspiracy to commit a crime for which the penalty is life imprisonment, the actor is guilty of a Class B felony.Attempt
An attempt to commit a crime requires that the actor have an intent to perform acts and attain a result which, if accomplished, would constitute such crime and that the actor does acts toward the commission of the crime which demonstrate unequivocally, under all the circumstances, that the actor formed that intent and would commit the crime except for the intervention of another person or some other extraneous factor. The penalty for attempt is complicated and depends on the violation, but is generally less than for the completed crime.