Defendants’ Intent the Central Question in Oregon Standoff Trial

Now that Ammon Bundy, his brother, and the other co-defendants (nicknamed, the “Bundys“) involved in the destruction and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have been set for trial, a jury must now decide whether the defendant’s actions and intent amounted to a crime. Several defendants have already pleaded not guilty to the federal charge of conspiring to impede U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents from doing their job at the refuge through intimidation, threats, or force. Five of the seven are also charged with possession of firearms in a federal facility. Another two face an additional count of government property theft.

Legal experts have been closely watching this case because prosecutors must put to rest the crazy constitutional arguments the defendants have come up with. The trial in Portland’s downtown federal courthouse is expected to last more than two months. In order to convict the Bundy’s prosecutors must prove that two or more defendants conspired to keep federal employees from carrying out their work at the refuge by threat and intimidation charge, a federal intimidation charge. District Judge Anna Brown has already told potential jurors that the case is “all about mental state.” This means they can only be found guilty if prosecutors prove defendant’s criminal intentions. It is reported prosecutors will use defendant’s statements on social media, videos, and news conferences as evidence.

Mens Rea and Actus Reas: The Two Elements of a Crime

In traditional criminal law theory, there are two components of a crime – mens rea and actus reas.  Mens rea refers to criminal intent. Specifically, it is the mental state of the defendant which implicates culpability. It is premised upon the idea that the defendant had a guilty state of mind and was aware or his or her actions. In other words, did the defendant intend to do the act in question?

Actus reas on the other hand, comprises of the physical elements of the crime. This includes willed bodily movements such as picking up a gun and aiming it at someone. However, the actus reus requirement can also be satisfied by an “omission”; if an individual had a duty to act and failed to discharge that duty.

As a result, a mistake of fact usually negates mens rea because someone who breaks the law because he or she honestly misperceives reality lacks mens rea and should not be charged with or convicted of a crime.

San Diego Criminal Defense and Trial Attorney

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje is a staunch defender of your fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment rights. We handle all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases and will walk you through your case from arrest to trial and do our best to keep you out of jail. We will fight for you to have a fair trial. If you have been arrested or charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, contact attorney David Boertje today. Consultations are free and confidential.

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