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What does being guilty of an offence mean?

Being legally guilty of an offence, and the concept of guilt as we know it in everyday life, are not necessarily the same thing. Being legally guilty can be quite complicated and involves principles your lawyer or duty counsel can explain to you.

In order to plead guilty, the physical acts (or omissions) that you agree took place have to amount to a criminal offence. You also had to have a guilty “state of mind” at the time of the offence. In most cases, this means that your actions amounted to a criminal offence and that you meant to do it. Doing something accidently is generally not enough to support a guilty plea for most offences.

For example, you could be found guilty of theft for stealing something in the situation that follows:

A person walks into a store. They pick up an item off the shelf, put it in their pocket to hide it, and walk out of the store past the cashier without making any attempt to pay for it.

In this situation, the person would be able to plead guilty because they physically took the item, and they had the guilty mental state of intentionally leaving the store without paying for it.