Is There a Difference Between Intent and Motive?

Two of the most important pieces of a criminal defense trial are the intent and the motive. While often mentioned together, they are actually very different aspects of the case and can affect it differently. Guilt is established through intent, and motive is used to explain why an individual did what they did.

For a better understanding of the two, their differences, and how exactly they can be used in your criminal defense trial, it’s best to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Fighter Law offers board-certified defense services with the goal of getting you the best possible outcome for your case. For a free case evaluation today, please call the number listed below. 

Understanding Motive

A motive is the explanation for the crime. Motives are not necessarily good or bad, and the defendant does not always have one. Instead, it is the reason for ultimately committing or not committing an act. A motive is not necessarily relevant when it comes to proving guilt. When investigating the circumstances surrounding the crime, motives often help narrow down the list of suspects. 

The greatest impact a motive can have on a case is when it comes to the sentencing. If the prosecutor is able to establish a motive for a crime the defendant has been proven to commit, the judge is more likely to lean toward the maximum sentencing guidelines. Motive is based on a state of mind and is hard to prove with solid evidence. A dedicated criminal defense attorney can fight to prove that your motive was not bad or that any hearsay used by the prosecutor is irrelevant. 

Understanding Intent

Intent is the identifier used to establish guilt. Even if a crime has been committed, it is possible for the charges to be dropped if the accused is shown to have not had any knowledge of their misconduct. 

For example, if you unexpectedly aided your friend in a crime of which you have no knowledge, your attorney can fight to demonstrate you did not have criminal intent. However, when you have been shown to have willingly participated or committed a crime with malicious intent, there are three levels of potential culpability:

  • General: This is the lowest level of intent and comes with the least severe punishments. This is when the prosecutor is able to prove that you have committed a crime with the general intent to commit a crime.
  • Specific: If you have specifically planned out a crime, you may be found to have had specific intent. This also pertains to crimes where you had knowledge the activity was illegal or the intention was to hurt or “do bad,” like causing bodily harm to another. 
  • Malice aforethought: This is only applicable to murder cases and is the specific intent of killing another human being. 

Intent can be the difference between having your case dismissed and facing criminal penalties and charges. If you have been accused of a crime you did not knowingly commit, it’s vital you begin speaking with a criminal defense attorney today. The sooner you reach out, the more time they have to begin building your case and establishing that not only did you have no motive, but no intent.  

Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

For over a decade now, Fighter Law has helped the central Florida community restore their rights and get the least possible sentencing for their crimes. In cases where you have been wrongfully charged or are facing penalties undeserving of your actions, our team of steadfast and board-certified attorneys, such as criminal defense lawyer Melissa Vickers, is ready to use every tool we have to get you the results you need for a happier and healthier future. 

For a free case evaluation with a real attorney today, please call our office at (407) 344-4837 or fill out our contact form.


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