What Must the State Prove to Find Me Guilty Of An Offense?

trialIn Tennessee our state crimes are described in the penal codes called Tennessee Code Annotated. Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-201 the state must prove that the accused is guilty of each element of the particular crime he or she is charged with. An element is a necessary component of the overall crime with which a person is charged and the elements to each individual crime are described in the code. Each element of every crime must also be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes the required mental state of culpability, such as intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence as defined in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-11-301 and 302.

Certain crimes require a culpable mental state. Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-301 and 302 define the various mental states as follows:

  1. Intentionally: the accused must undertake the act with a conscious objective to engage in illegal conduct or to case an illegal result.
  2. Knowingly: the accused must be aware of the nature of the conduct that is reasonably certain to cause an illegal result.
  3. Recklessly: the accused must act with a conscious disregard for the likelihood that the conduct will cause an illegal result.
  4. With Criminal Negligence: the accused ought to be aware of a substantial risk that certain circumstances exist or that a certain result will occur.

If a definition of an offense in the Tennessee Code plainly dispenses with a required mental element the accused may be held strictly liable for the offense. Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-301, if the statue’s definition does not plainly dispense with a mental element, then intent, knowledge, or recklessness may be sufficient.

If you have been charged with a crime in Murfreesboro, Smyrna or La Vergne, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.  An experienced attorney will not only discuss what the state must prove to find you guilty, but will educate you on each essential element of the particular crime with which you are charged and assist you in other ways to mount a strong defense early in the process.

Stan Bennett
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