Motive is the reason behind a crime that must be proved beyond any doubt in a court of law. However, some crimes are so unfathomed, like murdering one’s spouse or child and thus a jury might have a hard time to believe that someone can do that. The prosecution has to explain such a bizarre behaviour to the jury and explain the unthinkable how someone could commit such a crime. Motive plays a very important role in criminal law because it is always required to prove liability for any offence. It is also a major component for several defences and forms the tradition for consideration in sentencing. In punishment theory, motive has an important role as it reinforce the centrality of shared judgement, which is usually indispensable in any system of criminal law.
Most lawyers who discuss crime, say that motive is the reason why a crime is important though motive is not a legally known element in crime. However, “men’s rea” or intent is recognised as the mental purpose of doing an act forbidden by law is the known legal element in criminal justice. The law enforcers know that certain elements of crime and particular evidence are found in crime scene, may suggest the kind of person who did the crime and the reason for such a situation. This is where the concept of profiling of criminal evidence comes in handy.
The critique to the growing role in the motives of crime in criminal punishment is the wave in the legal jurisdiction. It focuses mainly on hate crime sentence enhancement as an emerging factor. The critiques contain two major objectives in considerations of motives as the determinant of punishments. The volitional objectives rest on the premise that the actor cannot control his/her own motives. It has found unjust to suspect by judging them against what they cannot change. Therefore, the argument goes that a punishment that is based on motives is always unjust.