Malice Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Malice, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Malice?

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History and Meaning of Malice

Malice is a term used in the legal system to describe a state of mind possessed by a person at the time they commit a crime. Its meaning has evolved over time, from a more general sense of ill-will or spite, to a more specific legal definition related to intent. In the legal context, malice is typically divided into two categories: express malice and implied malice.

Express malice refers to a deliberate and premeditated intent to cause harm to another person. Implied malice, on the other hand, refers to an intent to do an act that was known to be inherently dangerous, with a conscious disregard for the consequences of that act.

Examples of Malice

  1. A person who deliberately and with premeditation sets out to kill another person has acted with express malice.
  2. A driver who is aware that driving under the influence of alcohol poses a great risk to others, but does so anyway, could be said to be acting with implied malice if they cause a fatal accident.
  3. A person who spreads malicious rumors about another individual could be said to be acting with malice in a non-legal sense.

Legal Terms Similar to Malice

  • Mens Rea: A Latin term used in legal systems to describe the mental state of a person committing a crime.
  • Recklessness: Another type of culpable mental state in which a person is aware of the risks of their conduct, but goes ahead with it anyway.
  • Negligence: A type of fault in which a person fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person.