Most crimes are committed by people who intentionally and knowingly committed them, but what about those crimes that are committed accidentally? For example, what if you had a small $20 item at the bottom of your shopping cart and it somehow got missed during checkout.
You didn’t see the small $20 item sitting in your cart; you forgot all about it. So, you paid for your other items and then rolled your shopping cart out the door and 100 feet to your car in the parking lot. Are you still guilty of shoplifting?
This type of question is more common than you might think and similar questions can be raised in various criminal cases. From shoplifting, to credit card fraud, to theft, burglary, and everything in between, are you still guilty of committing a crime if you didn’t you were doing it?
Voluntary Acts and Omissions
Title 2, General Principals of Criminal Responsibility, Chapter 6, Culpability Generally, of the Texas Penal Code addresses the issue of “culpability” and “criminal responsibility.”
Under Section 6.01 of the Texas Penal Code, a person only commits a criminal offense if he or she voluntarily engages in criminal conduct; this includes an act, an omission, or possession.
Under Sec. 6.01(b), possession is only voluntary if the person is aware that he or she obtains or receives the item possessed, or as long as he or she learns of their control for a sufficient time that they can terminate control.
In the shoplifting example above, once the shopper gets to their car and realizes that they left the store without paying for the item, they should head straight back into the store and either pay for it, or return it to the store.
On the other hand, if the shopper found the item at the bottom of their cart, realized they didn’t pay for it and tossed it into one of their shopping bags and drove away, then they would be guilty of shoplifting.
Culpability Under the Texas Penal Code
Culpability is defined as being responsible for a wrongdoing. Under Section 6.02 of the Texas Penal Code, a person does not commit a crime unless he or she recklessly, intentionally, knowingly, or with criminal negligence engages in criminal conduct.
Sometimes people unintentionally or unknowingly commit crimes. They get arrested and charged, yet they don’t understand what the law says about criminal responsibility and how it applies to them. That said, it’s important to fully address “intent” with a skilled criminal defense lawyer when you’re facing criminal charges.