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Criminal Law Assignment

Motive versus Intent

In criminal law, intent is described by an act that is conscious and deliberate, so in effect the crime that is perpetrated is intended. Motive is what explains the reasoning behind the criminal act ("Criminal Law and Procedure", 2005). The main difference between these two definitions is that the motive is the reason for why the crime was committed, and intent is the planning and execution, or how the crime was committed. Take an example where an man is committing adultery and the wife finds out without him realizing. If the mistress is the victim of murder, then even if the wife was not the perpetrator, she has a clear motive for the crime. Motives are linked heavily with human emotions, and for crimes that are not cold blooded, emotions are often the underlying reason for criminal motives. However, the intention is the formulaic planning and carrying out of a crime, which is often associated with cold blooded crimes. This means that crimes of passion will be the result of motive, but the crime will be carried out at the heat of the moment, which means there was no active intent. A situation with neither motive nor intent is the definition of an accident, but this does not mean that no one is to blame in such as situation. If a drunk driver accidently kills a pedestrian, then he has still committed a crime without motive or intent due to negligence, or in other words, manslaughter. A crime can be committed without motive and with purely intent, and this is characteristic of a cold blooded crime, such as the murders of a serial killer. Another example of both motive and intent would be to cheat in an exam. The motive is the want to do well, but laziness means they cannot do well by ethical methods, and the intent is the planning of how that person is going to cheat in the exam.

Hate Crimes

The definition of hate crimes comes from the Hate Crime Statistics Act 1990, which states that bias crimes or hate crimes are the manifestation of racial, religious, sexual, or ethnical prejudices, whereby a crime is involved. This definition gives us some insights into the nature of people who commit such crimes. Hate crimes are usually with motive but not intent, and committed crimes will usually be of a spontaneous nature, fuelled by the hate of the perpetrator. Many other social and economic factors have an influence on hate crime, and it is known that hate crime cases increase in times of economic stress. The role of media can be seen as negative in the generalization and racial stereotyping which helps them to be successful, which helps to promote bias within society, and make certain people feel superior over others. The choice to designate a crime as a hate crime can often be incorrect due to such influential factors, and so motives must be examined very carefully from case to case to uncover the true reasons behind the crime before labeling a crime too quickly.


Criminal Law and Procedure. (2005). Retrieved August 27, 2006, from

Hate Crimes: Excerpt from Foundations in Victimology and Victims' Rights and Services (2001). Retrieved August 28, 2006, from