What Are the Elements of a Crime?

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Criminal Defense Attorney in Sugar Land, Texas and the Surrounding Areas

If you or a loved one are being investigated for a crime, your future is on the line. You may be overwhelmed and frightened by the potential impact this could have on your life. In Texas, criminal accusations are nothing to take lightly. The severity of criminal charges may vary depending on the nature of the crime, the history of the individual, and other circumstances of the case. With so much at stake, the guidance, protection, and representation of a skilled Sugar Land criminal defense attorney is crucial.

At the Law Office of Annie Scott, we have extensive experience in navigating the complex areas of Texas criminal law. We aggressively defend our clients who have been charged with misdemeanors and felonies in Sugar Land, TX and the surrounding areas. We will fight for your rights and build the strongest possible defense to protect your career, reputation, freedom, and future.

Contact us now and schedule an initial free consultation.

What is a Crime?

A crime is the intentional commission of an act usually deemed physically or socially harmful and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under criminal law. It occurs when any unlawful act or unlawful omission of an act violates a legal statute. Federal, state, and local government officials pass laws and statutes describing what constitutes a crime, so the definition of crime may vary from state to state. If you are facing serious criminal charges, a knowledgeable Sugar Land criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.

Crimes are classified according to their severity. The mildest crimes are known as infractions, more serious crimes are known as misdemeanors, and the most serious crimes are known as felonies. Sentencing for a crime in Texas is based on which category or level the offense falls into.

What Are the Elements of a Crime?

When the government charges an individual with a crime, the charge consists of separate components called elements. Under the United States criminal law, the elements of a crime represent a set of facts that have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict an individual of a crime. A credible criminal defense lawyer in Sugar Land Texas can help you understand the elements of a crime.

In general, a crime consists of four elements: a criminal act (actus reus), criminal intent (mens rea), concurrence, and causation. For someone to be convicted of a crime, there must be evidence proving the individual committed each element of said crime. The first three elements are required to prosecute all crimes, while the last element, causation, is often required, but not in all criminal cases.

Criminal Act (Actus Reus)

Actus reus (Latin word which means “guilty act”), refers to the unlawful act of committing a crime. It is commonly defined as a criminal act resulting from the voluntary bodily movement of the individual. If an individual acts on reflex, it does not satisfy the requirement of voluntariness.

This element describes a physical activity that harms another person or damages property. Anything from a physical assault or murder to the destruction of public property would qualify as an actus reus. Words can also be considered acts in criminal law: perjury, verbal threats, conspiracy, or solicitation. The actus reus component of a crime will vary depending on the crime and the state where the individual is being prosecuted.

Criminal Intent (Mens Rea)

The mental state element, also known as mens rea, refers to the state of mind that the individual possessed at the time the crime was committed. The theory of mens rea holds that an individual can only be held liable when there is criminal intent.

Different mental states may define a criminal offense. The type of mental state depends on how the crime is defined in the statute. There are four main types of mens rea: General intent, specific intent, motive, and knowledge/awareness.

  • General intent – refers to crimes in which there is no requirement for proof beyond a reasonable doubt about what was going on in the individual’s mind
  • Specific intent – these are crimes are those in which the prosecutor must prove that the individual had a particular goal or end-game in mind when they committed the offense
  • Motive – refers to why a person committed a crime and is not necessary when proving mens rea
  • Knowledge/awareness – these are crimes in which the individual must have known or been aware of the facts surrounding the commission of the offense. An example of this would be the possession of drugs with intent to distribute, as prosecutors would need to prove that the individual was aware of what they were doing.


This element of a crime refers to the coexistence of criminal intent (mens rea) and a criminal act (actus reus) at the time of the offense. In this case, prosecutors must prove that you committed some sort of unlawful act (actus reus) while also having a “guilty” state of mind (mens rea).

There are two types of concurrence: temporal and motivational concurrent. Temporal concurrence is when mens rea and actus reus coincide. On the other hand, motivational concurrence is when mens rea occurs first, motivating the actus reus.


Causation refers to the proof of a causal relationship between the act and the crime. This crime element refers to the act’s connection with an injury, loss, or harm. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual’s actions led to the alleged harm or injury. Much of the time, this fourth element is present in a criminal case. Causation alone will not create liability.

Call our Seasoned Sugar Land Criminal Defense Lawyers Now!

Facing criminal charges in Texas can be extremely daunting and overwhelming. Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, being accused or arrested of a crime can be a terrifying life-changing event. A criminal charge can affect your family, way of life, education, and career opportunities.

Whether you are being investigated, incarcerated, or charged for a crime, seek legal advice from our experienced Sugar Land TX criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Annie Scott. Our criminal defense law firm is committed to using our resources and legal knowledge to represent our clients aggressively. We will thoroughly evaluate your case, gather evidence, and build the best defense strategy for your case. We understand the serious implications of a criminal charge, therefore, we will utilize our skills and experience to protect your rights and freedom.

To schedule your initial case free consultation, give us a call or contact our criminal defense law firm online.