Strict liability can apply in a criminal case as well as a personal injury case. When a person is strictly liable, they are responsible for the consequences of their actions regardless of their intent or state of mind. Therefore, you could be guilty of a crime, even if you did not intend to commit the crime.
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Kentucky Criminal Statutes Regarding Intent To Commit a Crime
You cannot be convicted of a crime unless you commit a criminal act. To that end, many of the criminal laws in Kentucky require the prosecution to prove Mens Rea. Mens Rea refers to a “guilty mind” or criminal intent.
When a statute requires a person to have a specific mental state to commit a crime, the statute generally refers to the person intentionally, knowingly, or negligently committing the act. In other words, the person committed the crime and did so with the intent to commit the crime.
Strict Liability and Criminal Offenses in Kentucky
Defendants may be convicted of some criminal charges without the prosecution proving intent. These criminal offenses are based on strict liability.
Strict liability crimes do not involve a mental element to prove the case. The prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant committed the crime to obtain a guilty verdict.
Examples of strict liability crimes include:
- Traffic infractions
- Statutory rape
- Selling alcohol to a minor
- DUI cases
Kentucky Revised Statute §501.050 imposes “absolute” liability or strict liability for cases involving:
- A misdemeanor or violation under KRS §500.080 that does not require a culpable mental state in the definition of the offense; OR,
- The offense is described in a statute other than the Penal Code, which clearly indicates the state legislature intended to impose strict liability for the conduct.
A misdemeanor is an offense other than a traffic infraction that carries a maximum sentence of no more than 12 months. A violation is defined as an offense other than a traffic infraction that carries a fine as the only sentence.
Defenses to Strict Liability Crimes
Unfortunately, there are not as many defenses available if you face a strict liability crime. If the prosecutor can prove you are guilty of committing the crime, your intent does not matter. Therefore, it is crucial that you speak to a Louisville criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about potential defenses.
Potential defenses to strict liability crimes include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Your lawyer may argue that the police arrested the wrong person for the crime. This legal defense is often used when the defendant has an alibi and when the police do not have any direct physical evidence or eyewitness testimony to connect the defendant to the crime.
You Did Not Commit the Crime
The prosecutors must have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you committed the crime. Your defense attorney may challenge the evidence and present an alternative for how the crime occurred for the jury to consider.
Violation of Rights
The police must have reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a crime for them to stop you and investigate. In addition, officers must have probable cause to make an arrest. If they lack either of these elements, your attorney may file a Motion to Suppress Evidence.
If the judge agrees the police officers did not have cause, he might suppress any evidence obtained from the illegal search and seizure. Without the evidence, then it might be impossible to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, you could be acquitted because the prosecution could not meet the burden of proof required for a conviction.
What Should I Do if I Am Accused of Committing an Absolute Liability Crime in Kentucky?
As with any arrest, do not talk to the police officers or make a statement without a lawyer present. You should invoke your right to remain silent except for asking for a criminal defense lawyer.
If you are accused of a crime involving an alleged victim, do not try to contact that person. Any attempts to contact the alleged victim could hurt your case. It is also wise to stop using social media and refrain from discussing the case with anyone other than your criminal defense lawyer.
Kentucky criminal laws impose severe punishments for crimes. You do not have to be accused of committing a felony to serve time in jail. Some misdemeanor offenses carry a penalty of up to one year in jail.
In addition to fines and jail time, you could face collateral consequences if convicted of a crime. For example, a criminal history can negatively impact your career choices, education, living situation, child custody, and visitation.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Louisville Criminal Defense Lawyers
We are here to help you when you are facing criminal charges. You do not have to go through the criminal justice process alone. Contact our law firm Suhre & Associates, LLC at (502) 371-7000 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.