Michigan Court Discusses Evidence of Criminal Intent

In Michigan, people can be charged with harboring the intent to commit certain crimes. If a defendant is charged with such a crime, the prosecution must demonstrate the defendant’s mental status at the time of the alleged offense, and if it cannot, the defendant should be found not guilty. The evidence needed to prove an unlawful intent crime was the topic of a recent opinion delivered by a Michigan court in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for intent to commit arson. If you are accused of committing illegal acts, it is smart to speak to a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Alleged Acts

It is reported that the police were dispatched to the home of the victim due to reports of domestic abuse. When they arrived, they found the defendant inside the victim’s home with her children. He refused to vacate the home and spilled lighter fluid throughout the residence. Police followed the defendant to the second floor of the home, where he reported he had gasoline and he was going to torch the house.

Allegedly he kept asking the officers for a lighter or lit cigarette. At one point, though, he stated he was not going to set a fire. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including intent to commit arson. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing that the prosecution lacked adequate evidence to support his conviction.

Establishing Criminal Intent Under Michigan Law

As it can be difficult to prove a defendant’s state of mind on matters like intent and knowledge, minimal circumstantial evidence is sufficient to demonstrate a defendant’s mental state, which can be inferred from the sum of the evidence presented. Under Michigan law, a person who distributes an inflammable liquid in or near a building with the intent to commit arson is guilty of a crime.

In the subject case, the trial court, acting as factfinder, found that the defendant possessed the requisite intent due to the fact that he expressly stated he would torch the home and repeatedly asked for a lighter. In other words, the court found that if the defendant had the means, he would have burned down the home. The court rejected the defendant’s reasoning that the fact that he did not possess the immediate means to actually burn down the home meant he could not be found guilty for intent to commit arson. As the court explained, a person may have the intent to commit a crime before actually committing it. As such, his conviction was affirmed.

Consult With a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Charges

A conviction for intent to commit arson or any other felony offense can carry serious consequences, and if you are charged with such a crime, it is crucial to speak to a lawyer to determine your possible defenses. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney, who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome possible given the facts of your case. You can contact him via the online form or at (734) 883-9584 to schedule a free consultation.

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