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Motive vs Intent

Motive and intent are distinct concepts in criminal law, and they refer to different aspects of a person's mental state and actions.


Intent or intention refers to the actor's purpose or aim in committing a specific act. It involves the conscious decision to bring about a particular result or to engage in conduct with a specific outcome in mind. For example, if someone intentionally takes a specific action with the purpose of causing harm or achieving a certain result, their intention is tied to the specific act itself.


Motive refers to the reason or underlying cause that prompts a person to commit a crime. It is the emotional or psychological factor that explains why the person chose to act in a particular way. For example, if a person commits a theft, their motive might be financial gain, but the intention is focused on the specific act of taking someone else's property.

In summary, intent relates to the purpose or goal behind a specific act, while motive is the broader reason or incentive that drives a person to commit a crime. While motive can provide insight into a person's actions, it is not always a necessary element to prove guilt in criminal cases. Courts often focus on the intent or mens rea associated with the criminal act itself rather than the underlying motive.

Check out our exam-focused Criminal Law notes now.

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