Encyclopedia of Security and Emergency Management

Living Edition
| Editors: Lauren R. Shapiro, Marie-Helen Maras

Criminals: Motives

  • Jennifer BencivengaEmail author
Living reference work entry

Later version available View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69891-5_115-1


Criminal motives are those causes that invoke illegal actions.


Criminal motives are those causes that invoke illegal actions. For an action to be considered illegal, an applicable law must be broken. For an illegal action to be considered criminal, the offense must cause harm to society or property. Criminal motives shed light on the “why?” behind deviant behavior and, when coupled with evidence in court, provide jurors with additional support in considering verdict.

Often confused with intent, motive constructs are external antecedents to internal thought processes (Maasberg et al. 2015). In this sense, motive and intent are two different elements with the former influencing the latter. Common law is founded on the principle that an individual is guilty of a crime when there is both a guilty action (actus reus) and guilty mind (mens rea). In Latin, Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, or “an act is not necessarily a guilty act unless the accused has the...


Motive Crime Gang MS-13 Revenge Workplace violence Greed White collar crime Drugs Alcohol Addiction Love Murder-suicide Munchausen syndrome by proxy 
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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA