Greg Smith and Associates, Criminal Defense Attorneys/
Salt Lake City (Murray)
Free 15 Min. Consultation  :  Nights & Weekends  :  Easy Payments

801-651-1512  -  24/7

Free 15 Min. Consultation 24/7

801-651-1512


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"The domestic violence and DUI crimes that I was charged with would have ruined my career. Thank you for saving me! You are worth every penny I paid you."

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Criminal Intent - The Necessary Mental State Known As MENS REA

In Utah, jurors cannot assume that just because you did something, you did it with criminal intent. In other words, let's assume you raise your arms to yawn, and hit somebody in the nose while doing it, and then, that person's nose starts to be bleed. Is this an automatic assault? Well, any Kindergartener knows that to be guilty, you have to do something "on purpose." Fortunately, the Utah Supreme Court agrees with all those kids.

Just recently in the State v. Bird case, the court said the rule of thumb for jury instructions is that "an accurate instruction upon the basic elements of an offense is essential. Failure to so instruct constitutes reversible error."

And, what we lawyers called "mens rea", meaning "intent", is an "essential element of [an] offense". Dictionary.com says this about mens rea: "a criminal intention or knowledge that an act is wrong."

The Utah Supreme Court made it clear that "failure to instruct the jury as to the required mens rea, when it is an element of the crime, is reversible error". In other words, if you have a jury trial, demand that that is put in your jury instructions. If you have already been convicted, and it was absent, you can argue the judge missed a plain error.

In the case of State v. Stringham, a person was convicted for communications fraud, which is a felony, but the court of appeals reversed that conviction, and ordered that a new trial be given to the defendants because the trial court failed to tell the jurors about the mens rea element. In other words, don't just assume that the judge and prosecutor are up on all the legal nuances and rules because such are easy to overlook.

In Stringham the court said, "It is too long a reach to suggest the jury divined that defendant had to act intentionally because such a level of volition is inherent in the concept of 'devis[ing] a scheme'." Okay, now that's a mouthful, but here is what it means in plain English, "Hey, the jury isn't God, and cannot be expected to be able to pull out of the air whether the defendants acted with criminal intent – the prosecutor must show them they he did. In other words, jurors cannot simply say, well, he yawned and his arm hit that girl's nose, so he must have intended to cause her nose to bleed.

Thumbs up to the Supreme Court of Utah for laying this down.

Tags: criminal defense

Feedback From Satisfied Clients

"The domestic violence and DUI crimes that I was charged with would have ruined my career. Thank you for saving me! You are worth every penny I paid you."

More Testimonials

Avvo Clients' Choice Award. 5 Stars

Lawyers.com Reviews

Matindale Hubble Client Champion Lawyers 2018

Google Reviews


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Clients with disabilities or impairments
Access to our office is available to clients and their family members at all times. Special equipment and communication devices are available upon request for our clients with visual, hearing, speech and physical impairment. In addition, arrangements can be made for verbal or sign language interpreters if needed to communicate between our attorneys and the client and family. Please notify our law office if any additional accommodations related to your disability or impairment are necessary to make your consultation more comfortable.



Greg Smith and Associates
111 E. 5600 S. #105
Murray, UT 84107

Salt Lake City, UT

801-651-1512


Typically No Retainer - Easy Payments. *Call for details.


Greg Smith and Associates, Criminal Law Attorneys, represent clients in Salt Lake City (SLC) and all throughout the state of Utah.


DISCLAIMER: I understand that I am contacting a corporation, not an individual, and that if I do business with the law firm, it will be with that corporation, not any individual(s). I understand that Greg Smith and Associates is not the legal name of the law firm, rather, it is "Aafordable Legal Advocates, PC." I also understand that whatever may relate to, or arise out of, any communication with the law firm, which results in any type of legal action, such must be brought in the Third District Court of Utah, West Jordan Department, and that this is mandatory not permissive.


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