Intent or Motive: Which is the Essential Element of a Crime?

May 25th, 2010 by admin | Filed under General.

In most criminal investigations, the police authorities may inquire of the motive of killing. In their parlance, the motive of the suspect seems to hold water more than the intent. However, in jurisprudence, it is the intent which plays a vital role in the determination of the offense.

Motive is the moving power which impels one to commit an act for a definite result.  Intent is the purpose to use a particular means to effect such result. An extreme form of eviltry may lead a man to commit a crime irrespective of his actual motive but just for the pleasure of doing it. Correlatively, the manifest lack of motive in committing the act does not necessarily imply the absence of it for it is practically impossible to delve into the deepest recesses of the conscience of man. Whether or not the motive of the offender is good or bad, that does not prevent the prosecution of the crime if all the elements in its commission are present. Hence, a man who stole some medicines in the pharmacy to save his dying wife may have a very good intention, but the act itself is punishable by law. The law may be compassionate, however by considering some mitigating circumstances that will lessen the punishment but the prosecution takes it course notwithstanding.

Motive is not an essential element of a crime, and hence, need not be proved for purposes of conviction. Intent is an element of the crime, except in unintentional felonies, that is to say, culpable felonies. The motive of the offender is essential only when the identity of the perpetrator is in doubt. The intent however of the offender is essential in intentional felonies.

However, it is to be noted that the motive of the offender becomes relevant when there is doubt as to the identity of the assailant, in ascertaining the truth between two antagonistic theories or versions of the killing, where the identification of the accused proceeds from an unreliable source and the testimony is inconclusive and not free from doubt and if the evidence is merely circumstantial. These points are worthy of being considered by an investigator of a crimes.


One Response to “Intent or Motive: Which is the Essential Element of a Crime?”

  1. Leo says:

    What are the essential elements of a crime.

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