The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “Criminal Minds: Defining Culpability in Michigan Criminal Law,” which addresses the element of intent in Michigan statutes and case law. The policy brief is authored by Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Michael Reitz.

Conviction of a crime traditionally required a combination of a wrongful act and criminal intent. But frequently the criminal code is used for regulatory purposes, and those laws often omit a requirement that the prosecution prove the existence of criminal intent for a conviction to occur. Consequently, individuals can be charged, convicted and imprisoned for committing crimes without possessing a culpable state of mind — often for behavior a reasonable person would not think of as criminal.

The policy brief proposes a reform that would clarify the element of intent in criminal statutes. If the Legislature enacts a criminal statute that is silent on intent, a default intent provision would be incorporated. Such a reform could make for a more orderly criminal justice system and protect the rights of individuals.

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S2013-10