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Name: People v. Thiel
Case #: D069111
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/23/2016

Evidence of a defendant’s mental incapacity may not be considered in determining whether he had the intent to commit elder abuse. Thiel was convicted of several counts of elder abuse (Pen. Code, § 368, subds. (b)(1) & (c)) and other offenses. On appeal he faulted the trial court for failing to instruct the jury that his mental incapacity could negate his intent to “willfully” inflict unjustifiable pain and suffering on an elder. Held: Affirmed. A crime that requires general criminal intent needs no further mental state than the willing commission of the act that is proscribed by law. Alternatively, a specific intent crime refers to a defendant’s intent to do some further act or achieve some additional consequence. Evidence of mental illness may be introduced to negate the presence of specific intent, but not to show the absence of general intent (Pen. Code, § 28, subd. (a)). In section 368, subdivisions (b)(1) and (c), the conduct proscribed is the willful infliction of unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on an elder or dependent adult. This describes a general criminal intent because there is no reference to an intent to achieve an additional consequence. Thus, the trial court correctly instructed the jury that Thiel’s mental incapacity could only be considered in determining whether he knew or should have known that the two women he attacked were “elders” under the law.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: