Legal causality and criminal intent in the legal discourse

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In this article I analyse linguistic means employed to reconstruct causality in court. Identifying the causal relations that induced the occurrence in reality is particularly important when the mental element of the offence is considered proving criminal intent is showing existence of a causal relation between an intention and a legally prohibited act. I show that the legal significance of an action depends on the time of the action relative to other events. I will show that in the legal-criminal discourse simultaneity implies causality. In particular, if discussing a concrete occurrence, an event is proved to be simultaneous or almost simultaneous with an action - then causation between the action and the event is commonly implied if the event seems to the court as a reasonable motive for the particular action. I exemplify how the institutional speakers use time conjunctions indicating actions that happen simultaneously or almost simultaneously in order to prove existence of a causal relation, and how they present the simultaneity as incidental in order to deny existence of such a relation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-205
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Law


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