By Carlos Gamino. Click here for audio version.

In the state of Wisconsin, a court can find you guilty of a crime if criminal intent is a factor. But what is criminal intent, and what happens if you didn’t mean to do anything wrong? This guide explains.

What Does Criminal Intent Mean?

Criminal intent is the intention to commit a crime. For example, someone who walks up to a house, kicks in the door and proceeds to steal jewelry while meaning to do all of those things can be found guilty of breaking in and theft.

However, someone who kicks in a door to rescue a child from a fire isn’t going to get into trouble; they didn’t mean to commit a crime. If that same person picks up a small safe and runs out of the burning house with it, then hands it to its owner, that person isn’t guilty of theft.

Wisconsin law says that “with intent to” or “with intent that” means that the person has a purpose to do something or to cause a certain result, or that the person is aware that their conduct is almost certain to cause that result.

Several years ago, a mayor in Wisconsin posted a photo of his ballot online – and though that’s a crime, he didn’t do so with criminal intent, so the state chose not to charge him. Criminal intent means that the person meant to commit a crime.

Related: What happens if the police don’t read you your rights?

What if the State Can’t Prove Criminal Intent?

When the state of Wisconsin accuses someone of committing a crime, the prosecutor must show that you intended to break the law. For example, if the state says that you stole someone’s jewelry but what really happened was that the jewelry’s owner asked you to pick it up and take it to be cleaned, you had no criminal intent – and testimony from the jewelry’s owner will clear things up right away. (And just to be clear, ending up in court over something like this is highly unlikely. The state won’t pursue a case unless the prosecutor is fairly certain that a court will convict someone.)

Have You Been Accused of a Crime?

If you’ve been accused of a crime, our team of Wisconsin criminal defense attorneys may be able to help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule your free consultation now. That’s why we’re here.

Attorney Carlos Gamino