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Motive and Intent 1

Motive and Intent

Jake J. Koppenhaver


Professor Jakalski

April 30, 2019

Motive and Intent 2

Motive and Intent

The concepts of motive and intent, while similar, are quite different as they pertain to

criminal investigations. They are both conducive to the progress of an investigation, specifically

the elimination or inclusion of various suspects. The example story of the elderly woman being

murdered for her inheritance, with her three nephews Hugh, Lou, and Stu being suspects due to

financial difficulties, is a prime example of the relationship between motive and intent. The

police have arrested Lou because he has the most obvious motive, being that his home and car

are close to being repossessed and his business is going under. While Lou does appear to have

the most motive for killing his aunt, one can see how the police are lacking in proving intent for

the murder.

Motive, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “An emotion, desire, physiological need,

or similar impulse that acts as an incitement to action.” (2006) It is the motivation one has for

committing a crime, or any other action for that matter. Intent is the actual intention to perform

an action, and often comes right before the planning stage of committing a crime. Many would

attribute the relationship between motive and intent to the question of which came first between

the chicken and the egg. Some believe motive is present before intent, others believe the

opposite. Either way, one can see that both concepts go hand in hand.

Police investigators have arrest Lou, one of three nephews of the elderly victim, on the

charge of murder because they have found the evidence sufficient enough to do so. Lou does

have a fair amount of motive to commit this crime, to use his portion of the money to save his

business and pay the debt to secure his vehicle and home from repossession. However, intent is

not mentioned in the situation at all, and would be expressly needed for any sort of criminal

justice action against Lou as a suspect. For example, if Lou had verbally expressed a plan to

commit his aunt's murder and that person came forward, this would constitute intent. The same
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would apply if he had written plans, previous attempts at this crime, or previous violent crimes

on his record.

Motive alone does not necessarily mean that there is intent. Many people have motive to

commit a crime of some sort. For example, a woman is found by her husband engaging in sexual

activity with another man, who is stabbed one week later. The husband, while he has no alibi, has

also neither said nor done nothing that would implicate himself. Yes, one in his position would

be motivated to hurt the man he found with his wife, but he did not express his intention to do so.

Motive and intent are often confused with one another to the non-investigator, and may

even be enough to convict another of guilt in one's mind. In the criminal justice system a suspect

must have the motive and expressed intent to commit the crime, and opportunity to perform the

act. In the given scenario, Lou did not have an alibi (meaning he cannot prove that he was void

of opportunity), he did have a solid motive (the reason to commit the crime), but he did not have

the expressed intent. Motive is a definite prerequisite for intent, however in this case, the police

did not yet have enough grounds to arrest him for his aunt's murder. Certainly he is a prime

suspect and should be investigated further, which could possibly lead to discovery of intent, but

it was not possessed at the time of arrest.

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