Home Definition Malicious Intent (Legal Definition And What You Should Know)

Malicious Intent (Legal Definition And What You Should Know)

What is Malicious Intent?

What is the malicious intent legal definition?

What are the important elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our legal dictionary!

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Malicious Intent meaning

To understand the phrase malicious intent from a legal perspective, we must understand the terms “malicious” and “intent”.

Malicious (or malice) is a legal term used to refer to a party’s intent to do harm (the desire to cause prejudice or damages).

From a legal point of view, malice can be expressed or implied when the conduct or the actions of a party denotes malice and desire to cause injury.

Intent (or intention) is a person’s state of mind.

If a person’s intention (or state of mind) was to cause damages on purpose or for evil reasons, we say that the person’s intention was malicious (or there was malicious intent).

In a court of law, malicious intent can be proven directly or imputed to the defendant using circumstantial evidence. 

Essentially, a person aware of the potentially harmful consequences of his or her actions to another is said to have developed mal intent.

Malicious Intent definition

How do you define malicious intent?

According to US legal, malicious intent is defined as follows:

Malicious intent refers to the intent, without just cause or reason, to commit a wrongful act that will result in harm to another

In other words, if someone has the intent to cause harm to another, to commit a wrongdoing, or for ill-disposed reasons, we refer to that intention as “malicious” intent.

What is malicious intent

Malicious intent is a legal notion that may affect different areas of the law, both civil law and criminal law.

When you act or do something with malicious intent or malicious intentions, you are deliberately doing something that will cause injury to another or be detrimental to them.

The damages can be caused to:

  • A person’s property
  • A person physically
  • A person’s family
  • A person’s reputation 
  • Any other form of injury

The result is that Person A deliberately and willingly causes damages to Person B.

For example, if a dog owner takes a dangerous dog and unleashes the dog on another person knowing it will attack the person, that’s a deliberate action causing harm.

If someone drives their car directly into another’s property to cause damages, that’s a deliberate action.

Malicious intent in civil law 

What does the intent to harm law stipulate?

In civil law, malicious intent arguments can be used in many types of lawsuits and cases, such as:

  • Negligence lawsuits
  • Malpractice cases 
  • Personal injury lawsuits 
  • Reckless indifference 
  • Gross negligence 
  • Assault and battery 

Typically, a person suffering damages due to another’s ill-intentions may be able to obtain compensatory damages in a civil court, namely:

  • Compensatory damages
  • General damages
  • Punitive damages 

The more a person’s actions were malicious, the more the person may be exposed to punitive damages in a civil action.

Malicious intent charge in criminal law

In addition to being exposed to civil lawsuits, if a person’s conduct was so morally wrong and deliberate, it may result in criminal charges against the wrongdoer.

All criminal acts and statutory crimes require the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s intent.

Typically, when the defendant is accused of a crime with malicious intent, you’re possibly looking at some of the most severe types of crimes.

Criminal actions can also be prosecuted when the defendant acted with malicious intent, such as:

  • Murder 
  • Manslaughter 
  • Drunk driving manslaughter 
  • Criminal negligence
  • Reckless engagement 

Evidence of the defendant’s wrongful intentions will lead the prosecutor to prove the mens rea required in criminal cases to prove the guilty mind.

If a person commits a criminal act maliciously, the person is exposed to criminal consequences (like jail) and civil charges to compensate for the damages caused.

The more a person has malicious intentions, the more the punishment imposed for the crime will be severe.

Malicious intent vs negligence 

What is the difference between malicious intent and negligence?

The legal difference is pretty subtle.

When a person causes damages or harm to another “intentionally” and “knowingly”, the person is said to have malicious intent.

When a person causes damages or harm to another “accidentally” and “unwillingly”, the person is negligent.

Let’s look at an example.

If a person deliberately drives his or her car and hits a pedestrian causing bodily injuries, the person’s actions were deliberate and malicious.

If a person loses control of his or her car due to speeding and ends up hitting a pedestrian causing bodily injuries is said to be negligent.

In the first case, you have a driver who purposely injured another person whereas in the second case you have a bad driver who did not intend to hurt someone but ended up being negligent.


So what does Malicious Intent mean?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Malicious Intent:

  • The notion of malicious intent in law appears in civil law and criminal law 
  • It refers to a person’s state of mind when an action or conduct resulted in harm to another
  • Malicious actions are more severe than negligent acts as a person had formulated an evil intention to cause harm
  • In civil cases, malicious intent can be used as grounds to justify the award of punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages
  • In criminal law, malicious intentions result in more severe punishments and potentially longer jail sentences 
After Acquired Intent
Bad faith 
Common Intent
Declaration of Intention
Donative Intent
Dormant Legislative Intent
Intentional Interference with Contract
Malicious Arrest
Malicious Bankruptcy
Malicious Burning
Malicious Conduct
Malicious Injury
Malicious Mischief
Malicious Prosecution
Malicious Prosecution
Malitiis Hominum Est Obviandum
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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