A Discussion on Florida Civil Theft: Does Motive Matter, or Does Intent Only Matter?
Motive is legally defined as
n. in criminal investigation the probable reason a person committed a crime, such as jealousy, greed, revenge or part of a theft. While evidence of a motive may be admissible at trial, proof of motive is not necessary to prove a crime.
As a Florida Commercial Litigation Attorney handling Florida Civil Theft claims, I often encounter the defense “well I though it was mine, and I could take it.” If that is the position taken by a Defendant in a civil theft action that Defendant should be liable under Florida’s Civil Theft Statute. Even if a Defendants could prove (or convince a jury) that they did not believe it was unlawful to take the property, they still admit taking it, and are admitting to purposefully taking it. Simply put, even if a Defendant believed they could take the property, which they are later deemed not to have had a right to, they are liable civilly and guilty criminally. In short the law should not (and does not) look at what your motive was, rather did you intend on taking it. The intent goes to whether you intended on committing the action of taking it, not whether you believed the taking to be wrong.