Before examining its relevance to an investigation, the term motive must be defined. A motive is essentially the "why" of a criminal act. It is the reason and driving force behind committing a crime. Motive can also be viewed "as the emotional, psychological, and material needs that impel and are satisfied by behavior" (Turvey 2002: 307). Usually, a motive does not exist without a social context. Also, a motive is often difficult to discern, since it can be rather complex in some cases. In general, there are often multiple motives that, when combined, lead individuals to commit a crime (Turvey 2002). Only in a rare case is a motive singular Nonetheless, people concentrate on finding one causative factor that can explain an individual's criminal behavior Ainsworth (2001).
Interest in Motive
Police and lay-persons have different reasons for looking at motives. When a crime is committed, lay-people prefer to believe the offender was motivated by psychotic urges.
Perhaps, by thinking this way, people are able to distance themselves from the perpetrator. Recognizing that a crime may have been motivated by common feelings like greed and anger, which all humans experience at some point, the criminal shows similarities to the rest of society.
Often, lay-persons try to find a cause that is as far removed from their own motive as possible. On the other hand, law enforcement personnel are faced with the assessment of a criminal act. Even though a motive does not have any legal functions, it may still assist in excluding some suspects. Thus, establishing the motive during the investigation of a crime has several benefits. Benefits include limiting the suspect pool by giving law enforcement personnel a focus in their work and setting priorities (Turvey 2002). To summarize, "motive is an important factor in pointing to possible...