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The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.



malice n

1 a : the intention or desire to cause harm (as death, bodily injury, or property damage) to another through an unlawful or wrongful act without justification or excuse
b : wanton disregard for the rights of others or for the value of human life
c : an improper or evil motive or purpose [if cannot be proved or a benign purpose can be imagined "David Kairys"]
d : actual malice in this entry

actual malice
1 : malice proved by evidence to exist or have existed in one that inflicts unjustified harm on another: as
a : an intent to injure or kill
b : malice called also express malice malice in fact
2 a : the knowledge that defamatory statements esp. regarding a public figure are false
b : reckless disregard of the truth see also public figure New York Times Co. v. Sullivan in the Important Cases section

implied malice
: malice inferred from the nature or consequences of a harmful act done without justification or excuse
: malice inferred from subjective awareness of duty or of the likely results of one's act called also legal malice malice in law

malice aforethought
: actual or implied malice existing in or attributed to the intention of one that injures or esp. kills without justification or excuse and usually requiring some degree of deliberation or premeditation or wanton disregard for life [murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought "California Penal Code"]

malice in fact
: actual malice in this entry

malice in law
: implied malice in this entry
2 : feelings of ill will, spite, or revenge NOTE: Such feelings are usually not an important component of malice in legal consideration unless punitive damages or actual malice is an issue.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

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