Distinguishing Between Motive & Intention

When a person is hurt financially, physically, or emotionally by the actions or words of someone else, they often hold a grudge and may have the intention to cause harm in return. In such cases, people may see the intent but not understand the motive behind the behavior. In criminal cases, the focus is usually on the motive, although intent serves as evidence against the individual in court. This article aims to clarify the concepts of motive and intent.

Key Takeaways

  • Motive originates from motivation, and understanding the purpose behind intent can help a jury determine the appropriate sentence.
  • Intent is observed by witnesses and serves as evidence for a suspect being presented in court as having committed the crime.
  • However, motive alone does not equate to a crime, though it can raise suspicion towards the person with the motive to commit the crime.

If two individuals are seen fighting over an unknown issue and one of them attempts to stab the other, bystanders may intervene and subdue the attacker, who is then charged with assault with the intention to cause harm. The attacker may have a valid motive for their aggressive behavior, but it is up to the lawyers to determine why they showed the intent to harm the other person, who is considered a victim in this case.


In court, judges are more interested in understanding the motive behind the intent or criminal behavior exhibited by the accused, as it helps them reach a logical conclusion. Establishing a motive in a crime is essential for a jury or judge to determine a sentence, as they do not want to punish someone who may have unintentionally hurt another person and may not have a motive for the proven intent. Motive plays a crucial role in establishing the link between people and the committed crime. For example, if a husband dies in mysterious circumstances and his wife is the nominee in his life insurance policy, suspicion may fall on her as having murdered her husband for the money.


While many people may have the desire to become millionaires, they do not have the intent to rob a bank to achieve this goal, as they know it is legally wrong. Therefore, motivation alone does not lead to intent and cannot be considered proof of guilt. However, intent is observed by witnesses, although they may not know anything about the motive behind the crime.

Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles