What Is Malice?

According to criminal law, malice intends to commit an unlawful act without proper justification. For example, someone could hurt someone with malicious intent, and it would be considered unlawful if the attacker wasn’t doing it out of self-defense. Malice is more serious than a personal grudge or simply disliking someone. Instead, it is tied to a wrongful act in some way. Malice can be committed with a strategy or plan, or it could be a random, cruel act. A malicious act doesn’t necessarily have to be because the person was provoked; it can happen unannounced and without any reasoning behind it. 

Crimes often involve malicious intentions and can often result in wrongful death or severe life-threatening injuries. Malice can include the intention to murder someone or bring them great harm. It can also mean that the malicious person is increasing the risk of another being harmed with the full knowledge that these risks could have been avoided. For example, if an uncle doesn’t enjoy babysitting and decides to leave an aggressive dog near their nephew, resulting in a severe dog bite, the babysitter could be considered as having malicious intentions. Slander is also considered malicious in nature because it wrongfully labels an individual as something that they are not to destroy their reputation through defamation. 

Implied and Express Malice

There are different types of malice, including implied and express malice. Implied malice refers to when the injury or death of a person happens due to dangerous activities. Express malice is when there is an absolute intention to harm someone. If a person does something malicious and there is no justification for the act, then it can be assumed by the law that they could have acted more responsibly and intentionally created harm. This also falls under tort law because a malicious act injures someone else without just cause. Tort applies to any kind of activity that causes harm to another and doesn’t specifically mean that the act was malicious. 

The intention behind malice is that of ill-will and complete disregard for another. The malicious person may state that they performed the act because they were provoked or angry. However, rage alone isn’t a good enough excuse to commit a harmful act. 

How Punitive Damages Are Determined

If the court can prove that another acted maliciously, this can result in punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish grossly negligent activity and malicious behavior. However, there has to be proof that the offender was malicious. Sometimes, malicious behavior is hard to prove and can be hidden beneath apparently neglectful behavior. 

When the damages are extreme, and the type of neglect that could have been avoided seems absurd, it is clear that the defendant had some kind of malicious intent. For example, if a coworker gave you a laxative medicine labeled as migraine medicine, resulting in you missing an important speech the next day, this can be a form of express malice. It would be hard for that coworker to blame accidentally mixing up the medication.