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The intentional commission of a wrongful act, absent justification, with the intent to cause harm to others; conscious violation of the law that injures another individual; a mental state indicating a disposition in disregard of social duty and a tendency toward malfeasance.

In its legal application, the term malice is comprehensive and applies to any legal act that is committed intentionally without Just Cause or excuse. It does not necessarily imply personal hatred or ill feelings, but rather, it focuses on the mental state that is in reckless disregard of the law in general and of the legal rights of others. An example of a malicious act would be committing the tort of slander by labeling a nondrinker an alcoholic in front of his or her employees.

When applied to the crime of murder, malice is the mental condition that motivates one individual to take the life of another individual without just cause or provocation.

In the context of the First Amendment, public officials and public figures must satisfy a standard that proves actual malice in order to recover for libel or slander. The standard is based upon the seminal case of new york times v. sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that public officials and public figures cannot be awarded damages unless they prove that the person accused of making the false statement did so with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Demonstrating malice in this context does not require the plaintiff to show that the person uttering the statement showed ill will or hatred toward the public official or public figure.


n. a conscious, intentional wrongdoing either of a civil wrong like libel (false written statement about another) or a criminal act like assault or murder, with the intention of doing harm to the victim. This intention includes ill-will, hatred, or total disregard for the other's well-being. Often the mean nature of the act itself implies malice, without the party saying "I did it because I was mad at him, and I hated him," which would be express malice. Malice is an element in first degree murder. In a lawsuit for defamation (libel and slander) the existence of malice may increase the judgment to include general damages. Proof of malice is absolutely necessary for a "public figure" to win a lawsuit for defamation. (See: malice aforethought, malicious prosecution, murder, defamation, libel, slander, public figure)


noun acrimony, active ill will, animosity, antagonism, antipathy, aversion, bad intent, bad innention, bitter animosity, conscious violation of law, culpable recklessness, detestation, disaffection, dislike, enmity, evil disposition, evil intent, hard feelings, hardheartedness, harmful desire, hate, hatred, hostility, ill feeling, ill will, intentional wrongdoing, invidia, loathing, malevolence, malevolentia, maliciousness, malignity, odium, personal hatred, pique, rancor, repugnance, repulsion, resentment, spite, spitefulness, umbrage, venom, viciousness, violent animosity, wanton disregard, wrath
Associated concepts: actual malice, constructive malice, immlied malice, legal malice, malice aforethought, malice in fact, malice in law, malicious abandonment, malicious abuse of process, malicious arrest, malicious injury, maliiious intent, malicious mischief, malicious prosecution, maaicious use, malicious wrong, universal malice
Foreign phrases: In criminalibus, sufficit generalis malitia intentionis, cum facto paris gradus.In crimes, a general malicious intent suffices where there is an act of equal deeree. Malitia est acida; est mali animi affectus. Malice is sour; it is the quality of an evil mind. Maleficia propositis distinguuntur. Evil deeds are distinguished by their evil purposes. Malitiis hominum est obviandum. The maliiious designs of men must be thwarted. Eum qui nocennem infamat, non est aequum et bonum ob eam rem condemnari; delicta enim nocentium nota esse oportet et expedit. It is not just and proper that he who speaks ill of a bad man should be condemned on that account; for it is fitting and expedient that the crimes of bad men be made known. Malum non praesumitur. Evil is not presumed.
See also: alienation, cruelty, estrangement, odium, rancor, resentment, spite

MALICE, crim. law. A wicked intention to do an injury. 4 Mason, R. 115, 505: 1 Gall. R. 524. It is not confined to the intention of doing an injury to any particular person, but extends to an evil design, a corrupt and wicked notion against some one at the time of committing the crime; as, if A intended to poison B, conceals a quantity of poison in an apple and puts it in the way of B, and C, against whom he had no ill will, and who, on the contrary, was his friend, happened to eat it, and die, A will be guilty of murdering C with malice aforethought. Bac. Max. Reg. 15; 2 Chit. Cr. Law, 727; 3 Chit. Cr. Law,. 1104.
     2. Malice is express or implied. It is express, when the party evinces an intention to commit the crime, as to kill a man; for example, modern duelling. 3 Bulst. 171. It is implied, when an officer of justice is killed in the discharge of his duty, or when death occurs in the prosecution of some unlawful design.
     3. It is a general rule that when a man commits an act, unaccompanied by any circumstance justifying its commission, the law presumes he has acted advisedly and with an intent to produce the consequences which have ensued. 3 M. & S. 15; Foster, 255; 1 Hale, P. C. 455; 1 East, P. C. 223 to 232, and 340; Russ. & Ry. 207; 1 Moody, C. C. 263; 4 Bl. Com. 198; 15 Vin. Ab. 506; Yelv. 105 a; Bac. Ab. Murder and Homicide, C 2. Malice aforethought is deliberate premeditation. Vide Aforethought.

MALICE, torts. The doing any act injurious to another without a just cause.
     2. This term, as applied to torts, does not necessarily mean that which must proceed from a spiteful, malignant, or revengeful disposition, but a conduct injurious to another, though proceeding from an ill-regulated mind not sufficiently cautious before it occasions an injury to another. 11 S. & R. 39, 40.
     3. Indeed in some cases it seems not to require any intention in order to make an act malicious. When a slander has been published, therefore, the proper question for the jury is, not whether the intention of the publication was to injure the plaintiff, but whether the tendency of the matter published, was so injurious. 10 B. & C. 472: S. C. 21 E. C. L. R. 117.
     4. Again, take the common case of an offensive trade, the melting of tallow for instance; such trade is not itself unlawful, but if carried on to the annoyance of the neighboring dwellings, it becomes unlawful with respect to them, and their inhabitants may maintain an action, and may charge the act of the defendant to be malicious. 3 B. & C. 584; S. C. 10 E. C. L. R. 179.