Mens Rea & White Collar Crime

White-collar crimes typically involve financial or business matters and are not based on violent acts. Many people assume that they aren’t taken as seriously or that the repercussions aren’t as severe as more “routine” crimes but assuming either is a mistake. Their impact on victims can be devastating, so modern-day consequences are often very considerable. 

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime, the prosecution (depending on the charges) usually must prove two things: 

  • A crime was committed
  • You committed the crime intentionally

Mens Rea is Latin for “guilty mind,” and it usually describes subjective intent. However, especially with white-collar matters, there tends to be some confusion about how this applies. For example, many people believe that if they initiated an illegal act without the intention of breaking the law, then they can’t be found guilty—but that is not necessarily true. 

Two Paths Towards Guilt

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime by the federal government, some scenarios don’t require the prosecution to prove subjective intent. The crime you have been charged with determines whether they must prove intent and what precisely must be shown. There is:

  • Specific Intent
  • General Intent

Specific intentions are when someone engages in a particular act with the intention of achieving a specific result. General intent is when a person means to do an act that may only be a part of a larger crime. These actions may be criminal regardless of a person’s personal intentions. An example of this would be selling alcohol to a minor, even if the seller believed the minor to be over 21 (depending on the state). Though the seller may have had no intention to break the law, they may be responsible because they made the sale without bothering to check.

Which Cases Require Intent?

Again, the crime you have been charged with determines whether the prosecution needs to prove specific intent. Here are some examples of federal crimes where such intent is a factor in determining guilt.

  • Wire fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Bribes & kickbacks
  • Securities fraud
  • Mail fraud

Cove Law, P.A.

White-collar cases can take a considerable amount of time to build. If you suspect you are being investigated for one or have been accused of committing one, contact an attorney who can advise you of your rights and how to proceed. They can more fully explain whether the crime requires the prosecution to prove intent and how. Contact Cove Law, P.A. to schedule your free initial consultation if you have additional questions or are ready to speak with an attorney. 

Andrew Cove
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