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Why does intent matter in a murder case?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

For some crimes, intent is a very important part of the process. It needs to be present in order for a conviction to stick on those charges. Simply showing that the event took place is not enough.

An example of this is a first-degree murder charge. Intent is one thing that is required to show that it was murder and not a lesser charge, such as manslaughter. But why is this so important?

Intent shows an action was not just a mistake

Intent makes a giant difference because it removes any elements of negligence or someone just making a mistake that had fatal ramifications. 

For instance, many people make driving mistakes and cause fatal accidents. Roughly 40,000 people pass away in these accidents every year in the U.S. But the vast majority of these crashes are simply the result of negligence and the driver making an error. They never intended to take anyone’s life, as they didn’t even intend to cause a car accident in the first place.

But with something like first-degree murder, the person has considered their plan in advance and decided to do it intentionally. This is often referred to as malice aforethought. When present, it makes it a drastically different case.

If you’re facing serious charges, it’s definitely important to know how this works. The difference between a conviction on manslaughter and first-degree murder can be drastic. You may have been accused of murder when you know that you never had any intent to do anything wrong and the whole thing was a tragic accident. You need to know what defense options you have to ensure that you’re not convicted on charges that don’t fit with what really happened.