Intent is usually an important element when it comes to prosecuting a case. If the state has evidence that can prove that a defendant clearly intended to commit a crime, it’s likely that a more serious charge with more serious penalties will be pursued. Experienced criminal attorneys in New Jersey put this under the heading of the Latin term, mens rea. It means “guilty mind.”
In most matters involving protecting defendants’ rights, whether the accusation involves a sex crime or some other serious offense, the issue of intent is significant. However, while some state laws make intent a specific presumption of the criminal act, it might not always have to be shown. Allegations of a crime involving minors serves as one example.
For instance, Title 2C of the code of criminal justice makes it illegal for someone to “lure or entice a person … with a purpose to commit a criminal offense with or against the person.” The language of the statute clearly states that intent is required.
However, if the target of the activity turns out to be a minor, it may be that mens rea does not have to be proven. There is a presumption that if the victim of the crime is a minor then punishment of the perpetrator is deserved, regardless of his or her state of mind.
That is why sex that is thought to have been consensual may result in a charge of statutory rape. This can happen even if the alleged offender had no idea the other person was below the age of consent.
Such nuance in the law is one reason why anyone facing charges should be working with skilled counsel.