Separating Motive from Intent and Proving a Civil Theft Claim

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.

2 thoughts on “Separating Motive from Intent and Proving a Civil Theft Claim”

  1. A client signed a contract with me for design services and the contract in bold letters in a separate line item states all deposits are non refundable. This is the fifth project with the same client. 20 days after the deposit was paid the client decides he wants to do the project himself and wants the deposit back. I sent him details with the hours and work I have involved and also that I turned another job away to give full attention to his job. I then offered to return 75% of the deposit for good faith and to avoid a conflict. He wants the full deposit do we did not agree. Now he is threating civil theft. I could use some advice

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