The advice of criminal lawyers should be sought in any case where a serious offence has been committed. Even if the crime was not a serious one, having a lawyer to advise you will ensure the best result can be obtained. Most lawyers will tell you there are two elements to any criminal offence.
- Prohibited conduct. This includes such things as robbing a bank, murder, assault and so on. Most people understand that there are certain types of conduct that will cause harm to others and that are against the law. Anyone who performs such conduct must be punished. However, that brings us to the second element.
- The mental element of a guilty mind or intention to commit the offence. The same offence can be committed by a person without the intention and they can get off without punishment. For instance, if you struck someone accidentally, you would not be guilty of assault because the element of intention to strike was not there. Furthermore, if you acted in self defence, that would give you a lawful excuse for the action so you may not be charged, or punished, even if you did hit them.
Strict liability offences
Strict liability offences are usually minor and are regulatory, not requiring the presence of the 2nd element in order for the person to be found guilty. An example of this is if you were found to be speeding. If you are going over the speed limit, you are guilty of the fact , so if you are caught you’ll be charged with doing so and there will be no need for the police to show you intended to do it. Likewise, there will be no chance of getting off by saying you didn’t mean to or didn’t realise you were going over the limit. Even if you can prove your vehicles speedo was faulty, that is not enough to get you off, because it is up to you to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy and has everything working to ensure you drive safely.
Ancillary criminal responsibility
While most people who are charged with a crime are the main offenders, those that help them in any way must also bear the responsibility for the crime on the basis of joint responsibility. An example of this would be the person who drives the get-away car at a bank hold-up or the person who kept watch. Both aided the main perpetrator in committing the crime so they are also criminal, even though they may not be punished quite so severely.
A person can also be found guilty of criminal offence if they planned or tried to commit an offence but didn’t succeed. The person who plans a crime and has other carry it out is also guilty of the crime and will be charged with it, even if it did not succeed or was not carried out. They are then charged with conspiracy.