Maine's criminal laws are almost always interested in what was going through your mind, when you're accused of committing a crime. What you were thinking is a crucial element of many crimes in the state, and having what is called a “culpable state of mind” is required, in order to be convicted on many criminal charges. If you aren't proven to have had the required culpable state of mind for a crime, then you can't be convicted for that crime.
To make things easier, Maine has set out four different states of mind. These are:
The criminal statutes of Maine will often include a statement about which of these categories is required, in order for you to be convicted for violating that law.
Elsewhere in this blog, we've discussed intent, knowledge, and recklessness. Now, we'll delve into what negligence means.
According to Maine's law, criminal negligence is when you fail to be aware of the risk that your conduct will produce a certain result, and should have known otherwise.
An example of acting with criminal negligence is by spinning donuts in a snowy parking lot. Even though you think that you have absolute control of your car, the reality is that you could lose control and spin into someone else's car, or into a building at the side of the parking lot, and cause damage. You could face criminal charges for this, and could be convicted if these charges only require that you be shown to have been acting with criminal negligence.
An important aspect of negligence is that, even though you failed to be aware of the risk that you were causing, it was reasonably expected that you should have been aware of it, because most other people would have been.
Like all states of mind, however, negligence is difficult to show. This is because, as a state of mind, no one can see it or touch it – it all goes on, inside your head. Because no one can read your mind, a prosecutor would have to look for signs in your conduct that provide clues as to what your state of mind was, in order to show that you were acting negligently.
This is difficult to do, and the prosecutor has to prove it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt in trial. This is a high expectation for even the best prosecutors in the state of Maine. However, it becomes even more difficult for a prosecutor to meet this expectation, if you have a good criminal defense attorney on your side. Criminal defense attorneys specialize in raising reasonable doubts in a jury's mind, especially when it comes time for the prosecutor to show that you acted with a culpable state of mind.
William T. Bly is an experienced criminal defense attorney, with a solid reputation in southern Maine. Call his law office if you've been accused of a crime, and need help defending yourself: (207) 571-8146.