Understanding what criminal intent is by definition makes it immediately evident why it is such an important determinant in the justice system.
“The criminal act” is the definition purported by thelawdictionary.org.
An example this source gives is the “intent to deprive or defraud the true owner of his property.”
In the justice system, it may not always be easy for a judge or jury to determine whether or not there is or has been actual criminal intent behind a crime that has been committed. There is always the possibility of “spontaneous action.”
Addressing the question of criminality is seldom easy. Criminal intent is an important determinant in the justice system because reprimand and punishment serve as deterrents, or at least they should serve as deterrents, even though in the justice system, it does not always seem to work that way.
Every human being has the expectation of justice rendered to him or her in terms of compassion, care and community. Even the most hardened criminals who have committed heinous crimes need compassion. It is not as if there are global hard-fast rules with any guarantees of compassion.
One might ask whether criminals who receive reprimands or punishment in conjunction with compassion continue in their crime.
Is their crime the result of non-compassion in their lives?
Is compassion or the lack thereof behind criminal intent?
Criminal intent becomes an individual matter assessed by a judge or jury. No two criminal cases are identical, simply because no two individuals have the same thought processes regarding their intent.
The word aim or purpose” according to the free dictionary.com.
Whether that intent includes direct or oblique intent.
The burden of proof with respect to criminal intent becomes the responsibility of a person charged with breaking the law or committing a crime. The degree of reprimand or punishment for a crime depends on whether it is possible to obtain proof.
Ideally, reprimands and punishment meted out by the justice system are fair, but in a less than ideal world, fairness often becomes somewhat of an ideal too. In other words, there are situations in which reprimand and punishment do not fit the crime. Ideally, criminal intent should be the determining factor, but dealing with ideals can leave a lot of room for error or misjudgments in the justice system.
Justice is a process that is continually subject to change and revision, and rightly so.