INTENT (from Lat. intendere, to stretch out, extend, particularly in the phrase intendere animum, to turn one's mind to, purpose), in law, the purpose or object with which an act is done. The question of intent is important with reference both to civil and criminal responsibility. Briefly, it may be said that in criminal law the constituent element of an offence is the mens rea or the guilty intent. The commission of an act without the intent is not, as a general rule, sufficient to constitute a crime, nor, on the other hand, does the existence of a guilty intent without commission of the act amount to the legal conception of a crime (see CRIMINAL LAW). In the case of civil wrongs, in general, the opposite holds good. A wrongful act done to the person or property of another carries with it legal liability, irrespective of the motive with which the act was done (see TORT). In reference to the construction of contracts, wills and other documents, the question of intention is material as showing the sense and meaning of the words used, and what they were intended to effect.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)