Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Intent: It's Everywhere!

I went in to law school with a pretty extensive vocabulary. I mean, we took a vocabulary/comprehension test at orientation and I scored in the 99th percentile for both. I'd say that vocabulary is not, nor has it ever been, a weakness of mine. Now with that being said, I now suffer from law-school-vocabitis. This disorder is defined as the confusion instilled in one's self based on words no longer meaning what you thought they meant. I am pretty sure that anyone in my class can relate or even now give a name to their own disorder.

Now, while most words that I am finding myself stumble on have completely different legal meanings than I have grown accustomed to knowing (apprehension, am I right Holly?), others are similar but used more extensively and are weighted differently. Let's look at the word intent. Merriam Webster's Dictionary defines intent as: 

a :  the act or fact of intending :  purposeespecially :  the design or purpose to commit a wrongful or criminal act <admitted wounding him with intent>
b :  the state of mind with which an act is done :  volition
:  a usually clearly formulated or planned intention :  aim <the director's intent>
Sidenote: KP would utterly hate this definition seeing as they used the word being defined in different forms IN the definition itself!

Black's Law Dictionary (seriously one of my smartest purchases to date, especially when it was for a book that wasn't a requirement) has a much larger definition for intent. This is because it does not JUST define this small word, but also defines the word in different settings. For example, intent is defined as:

1. In criminal law and the law of evidence. Purpose; formulated design ; a resolve to do or forbear a particular act; aim; determination. In its literal sense, the stretching of the mind or will towards a particular object. . “Intent” expresses mental action at its most advanced point, or as it actually accompanies an outward, corporal act which has been determined on- Intent shows the presence of will in the act which consummates a crime. It is ‘the exercise of intelligent will, the mind being fully aware of the nature and consequences of the act which is about (o be done, and with such knowledge, and with full liberty of action, willing and electing to do it. Burrill, Circ. Ev. 284. and notes."

Black's goes on to define specific intent, transferred intent, letter of intent, larcenous intent, and a whole plethora of different uses for the word. 

Now while some of you are sitting there saying to yourself, "Hey dummy! The definition is quite similar in both books," let me assure you that the word intent has completely changed its meaning/importance in my vocabulary. I used to look at intent as simply my goal at the given time. I now look at intent as what my goal was at the time, what my goal wasn't at the time, and how my purpose drove me to respond to certain situations in a certain way. I looked at intent as simply a thought rather than that thought being an action. 

And intent, IT'S EVERYWHERE! Being in my 5th week of classes, I have quickly learned there is no escaping this word. It is truly everywhere. In the legal world, I am somewhat compelled to feel that intent is what drives the whole machine (don't worry I know that it doesn't, it is just such a huge part of it in my current learning). Intent is essentially apart of every one of my lessons thus far. 

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