The Three Elements of Crime

By Dalton Kelly


Definition : Person must be aware that they were suppose to do something or not do something.
  • People must be aware that they were supposed to do something in order to be charged with not doing something.
  • In civil cases, awareness of duty must be established to find someone liable.
  • When laws are in the books people must know them and follow the laws.
Example: A person can't say that they are innocent of speeding because they didn't know what the speed limit was, because there is a speed limit signs on the road.


Definition: To be charged with not doing something that you were supposed to be doing.


  • In most criminal laws, this element is unspoken.
  • This is second in the order, because once you are aware of the duty, then you can break it.
  • This is very important piece in determining the outcome of a trial.
Example: A medical caretaker not taking reasonable care of a person who they were hired to take care of.


Definition: The Intent to commit a crime, as evidenced by a criminal act.


  • This is the final element to be examined.
  • Mainly applies to civil cases.
  • Describes a person's state of mind.
  • Can be used to determine guilt or innocence in some cases.
Example: A Person steals from a convince store and take one of the sodas, on accident. The police review the evidence and see that he accidentally took it and had no criminal intent.