The terms “motive” and “intent” are often used interchangeably, but in the realm of criminal law, they mean two very different things. Only one is used as an element of a crime that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal prosecution. It is, therefore, essential to understand how the two terms are unique. Here’s what you need to know about intent versus motive, in case you ever find yourself facing criminal charges.
How Does TX Define Motive?
Motive is a term you’ve likely heard in movies and television crime dramas, but it’s not just a Hollywood buzzword. In fact, motive stipulates the underlying reason a person may have committed a crime. It is often determined by law enforcement through investigation of causal factors that led to the crime.
It’s important to note, however, that law enforcement may be able to determine the motive for a crime, but that may not link a specific suspect to the actual commission of the crime.
In court, it’s not necessary for a prosecutor to prove a particular reason why a defendant may have engaged in criminal behavior. It is only constitutionally required that the prosecution prove the defendant committed the crime beyond reasonable doubt. Motive, however, may be considered by the jury or the judge when hearing the facts of the case.
How Does TX Define Intent?
Intent is a person’s conscious choice to commit an act that violates the law. Intent is an element of crime in general, and it is something that prosecutors must prove in order for the defendant to merit a guilty verdict in any case.
A good example in Texas is burglary. Texas prosecutors must prove that the defendant had criminal intent when they entered unlawfully. That intention to commit burglary has to be proven in order to be found guilty in Texas.
Types of Intent
In law, there are generally two types of criminal intent applied to cases. These are:
General intent is a person’s state of mind when they willingly break the law. In order to establish this type of intent, the prosecution must show that the defendant understood their actions were illegal.
This is the defendant’s state of mind when they break the law for a specific reason. Let’s go back to our burglary example. If someone breaks into a home with the express purpose of stealing an entertainment system, then that demonstrates specific intent.
Motive vs. Intent in Texas: the Main Contrast
The biggest difference between motive and intent: motive may explain why a crime was committed, but it’s not an element that must be established in order for someone to be found guilty in the court of law.
Intent is a “criminal element”, because it must be proven in order for the defendant to receive a guilty verdict.
While the terms “intent” and “motive” may seem confusing at first, you can clearly see the difference between the two. In the eyes of the law, they carry different weight with regards to a criminal prosecution. It’s vital to understand the differences in terms like these, especially if you find yourself accused of a crime that requires proven intent. The knowledge will help you understand the case and build your protection.