Difference Between Motive and Intention

Motive vs Intention

If you are financially, physically or mentally hurt by the action or words of another person, you hold a grudge against that person and have enough purpose or motive to hold intention to harm that person in one or the other way. People see your intent but not the motive behind your behavior. However, in criminal cases, judges are more concerned with motive though intent becomes prima facie evidence against a person in a court of law. Many people, especially laymen, are very confused with these two principles called motive and intent. This article attempts to make the concepts of motive and intent clear for all the readers.

If two individuals are seen having a brawl over a topic that people are unable to understand, but they see one of them taking out a knife trying to plunge it into another man’s stomach, they converge and overpower him to save another man’s life. The aggressor is produced in a court where he is charged with trying to assault another man with the intention of harming him. He may well have a valid motive (motivation) or the cause to indulge in such an aggressive behavior, but that is the job of the lawyers to get it out from the aggressor as to why he showed the intent to hurt another man, who is considered to be a victim in this case.


In all courts, judges are more interested in knowing the motive behind the intent or the criminal behavior shown by an accused as it helps them to come to a logical conclusion. Unless motive in a crime is established, it is very difficult for a jury or a judge to come to a sentence, as they do not want to punish someone who may have inadvertently hurt another person, and may not have a motive for the intent that has been proved in the court by the lawyers using the help of witnesses and circumstantial evidence.

Motive plays an important role in establishing association between people and the crime that has been committed. If a wife is a nominee in a life insurance policy that her husband had bought, and he dies in mysterious circumstances, the needle of suspicions points at the spouse as she may have got her husband murdered or committed the crime herself for the sake of money.


Everyone has a desire or motivation to become a millionaire, but they do not have the intent to rob a bank to become a millionaire as they know that it is legally wrong. Thus, motivation alone does not lead to intent; hence, cannot be taken as a proof of guilt. It is intent though that gets seen by witnesses though they may not know anything about the motive behind the crime.


What is the difference between Motive and Intention?

• Motive comes from motivation and knowing about the purpose behind intent, a jury finds it easier to announce the sentence.

• Intent is seen by witnesses and becomes the evidence for a suspect being produced in a court of law as having committed the crime.

• However, motive alone does not translate into crime though the needle of suspicion does point at the person having the motive to commit the crime.