Types of Culpability
Types of Culpability
Culpability is the degree to which an individual can be legally held responsible for an action committed by the person. An individual is culpable if their action, which was intentional, led to a negative outcome and no proof of justification for the actions (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). Culpability measures whether a person had knowledge of their wrongful acts and whether the person should take blame for their actions. Culpability will also determine the type and level of punishment with the judge having the responsibility of determining the level of intent based on the criminal law (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). There are four types of criminal intent based under culpability, which include general intent, specific intent, transferred intent, and constructive intent (Breton, 2014).
General intent involves the intent of a defendant to commit a certain criminal act. This may involve the defendant having acted intentionally but not having the desire to achieve a certain outcome or bring about a certain result (Breton, 2014). If the defendant did not commit anything other than the criminal act, this may be also categorized as a general intent. Crimes of general intent are easier to prove in court and the punishment is less severe compared to crimes of specific intent (Breton, 2014). A crime under this category may include battery, which involves physical abuse in which the defendant may not have a desire to cause a certain result or may not have the knowledge of the illegal activity (Breton, 2014).
Specific intent means that the accused commits a crime with a high level of awareness (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). Either most of the offenders engaging in crimes requiring specific intent have had intentions to cause a certain negative effect or the offender intends to do more than just the crime. The defendant may also act with the knowledge of the criminal act but proceeds to commit the criminal act (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). Crimes that may fall under this type of culpability include violent behaviors or offenders causing chaos with the intention to cause harm to the certain victim. A crime involving physical abuse which the defendant warned the victim of his/her intentions before proceeding to commit the criminal act is a crime under the specific intent category (Ashworth & Horder, 2013).
This involves crime in which the defendant criminal intent is not purposely directed to a certain victim (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). This may involve the intent to harm a certain individual, which inadvertently leads to hurting of another individual instead. The offender is still held responsible for the crime committed. The defendant may be charged with more than one criminal act, which may involve an attempt to commit a criminal act on the intended victim (Ashworth & Horder, 2013). A crime, which falls under this category, is a crime involving physical abuse where a third party who tries to separate the fight gets hurt in the process. The perpetrator’s intentions were not to hurt the third party but still caused harm to the third party (Ashworth ; Horder, 2013).
This involves an intent, which is indicated to have existed, and a crime committed may be due to a willing nature of the defendant or due to the recklessness of the defendant, which led to the criminal act (Breton, 2014). This applies to a situation where the defendant may not have desired to cause any harm to the victim but their actions led to certain consequences, which were foreseeable (Breton, 2014). A crime under this category may involve a police officer who shoots in the sky to scare someone where the bullet unfortunately leads to the death of another person (Breton, 2014).
Ashworth, A., ; Horder, J. (2013). Principles of criminal law. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Breton, L. (2014). Criminal Intent. Harlequin MIRA.