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Encyclopedia > Excuse
Criminal defenses
Part of the common law series
Defenses to crime
Actual innocence
Excuse and exculpation
Defenses that deny the act:
Alibi  · Mistaken identity
Frameup  · Falsified evidence
False confession  · Automatism
Defenses that negate intent:
Infancy  · Entrapment
Insanity  · Mental disorder
M'Naghten Rules
Diminished responsibility
Mistake of law  · Mistake of fact
Intoxication
Defenses that justify the act:
Self defense  · Consent
Duress  · Necessity
Provocation
See also Criminal Law
Criminal Procedure
Other areas of the common law
Contract law  · Tort law  · Property law
Wills and trusts  · Evidence
Portals: Law  · Criminal justice

In jurisprudence, an excuse or justification is a form of immunity which must be distinguished from an exculpation. In this context, "to excuse" means to grant or obtain an exemption for a group of persons sharing a common characteristic from a potential liability. "To justify" as in justifiable homicide means to "vindicate" or show the justice in the particular conduct. Thus, society approves of the purpose or motives underpinning some actions or the consequences flowing from them (see Robinson), and distinguishes those where the behavior cannot be approved but some excuse may be found in the characteristics of the defendant, e.g. that the accused was a serving police officer or suffering from a mental illness. Thus, a justification describes the quality of the act, whereas an excuse relates to the status or capacity (or lack of it) in the accused. "To exculpate" means to free a particular individual from culpability after he or she has caused loss or damage and to represent this in a judgment that is either an acquittal or mitigates sentencing in the criminal law, or reduces or extinguishes the liability to pay compensation to the victim in the civil law. Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Actual innocence is the most widely used - yet often the least studied - defense to crime. ... Mistaken Identity may refer to albums: Mistaken Identity (Kim Carnes album) Mistaken Identity (Delta Goodrem album) This is a disambiguation page: a list of articles associated with the same title. ... A frameup refers to the act of framing someone, that is, providing false evidence in order to prove someone guilty of a crime. ... Falsified evidence, forged evidence or tainted evidence is used to either convict an innocent person, or to guarantee conviction of a guilty person. ... False Confession was a hardcore punk band in the early 1980s that emerged in the Oxnard, California area. ... Automatism is a disassociative state where the individual suffering from it has no control over their actions. ... The defense of infancy is a form of defense known as an excuse so that defendants falling within the definition of an infant are excluded from criminal liability for their actions, if at the relevant time, they had not reached an age of criminal responsibility. ... In jurisprudence, entrapment is a procedural defense by which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law, because they were induced (or entrapped) by the police to commit said acts. ... In a criminal trial, the insanity defenses are possible defenses by excuse, via which defendants may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as they were mentally ill at the time of their allegedly criminal actions. ... In criminal law of commonwealth countries, the defense of mental disorder - sometimes called the defence of mental illness - is a legal defence by excuse, by which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as they were at the time of their... The MNaghten Rules are used to establish insanity as an excuse to potential criminal liability, but the definitional criteria establish insanity in the legal and not the psychological sense. ... In criminal law, diminished responsibility (or diminished capacity) is a potential defense by excuse by which defendants argue that although they broke the law, they should not be held criminally liable for doing so, as their mental functions were diminished or impaired. ... Mistake of law is a defense sometimes raised in criminal cases, although rarely with any success. ... Mistake of law and mistake of fact are two types of defense by excuse, via which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law or liable for damages under a civil law action. ... An intoxication defense, in criminal law, is a defense by excuse, via which a defendant argues that they should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law, because they were intoxicated. ... This article and defense of property deal with the legal concept of excused (sometimes termed justified) acts that might otherwise be illegal. ... Categories: | ... Duress (coercion) (as a term of jurisprudence) is a possible defense, via excuse, by which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law. ... In criminal law, necessity is a possible excuse for breaking the law. ... For the country-specific law, see provocation in English law. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law. ... A contract is any promise or set of promises made by one party to another for the breach of which the law provides a remedy. ... In the common law, a tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. ... Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property, within the common law legal system. ... In the common law, a will or testament is a document by which a person (the testator) regulates the rights of others over his property or family after death. ... The law of trusts and estates is generally considered the body of law which governs the management of personal affairs and the disposition of property of an individual in anticipation and the event of such persons incapacity or death, also known as the law of successions in civil law. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. ... Immunity confers a status ojavascript:insertTags(ì,,)n a person or body that makes that person or body free from otherwise legal obligations such as, for example, lijavascript:insertTags(Ú,,)ability for damages or punishment for criminal acts. ... In the most general sense, a liability is anything that is a hindrance, or puts one at a disadvantage. ... The concept of justifiable homicide in criminal law stands on the dividing line between an excuse and an exculpation. ... J.L. Urban, statue of Lady Justice at court building in Olomouc, Czech Republic (1896-1901) Justice is the ideal, morally correct state of things and persons. ... Human relationships within an ethnically diverse society. ... Mental illness (or emotional disability, cognitive dysfunction) is a broad generic label for a category of illnesses that may include affective or emotional instability, behavioral dysregulation, and/or cognitive dysfunction or impairment. ... The capacity of both natural and artificial persons determines whether they may make binding amendments to their rights, duties and obligations, such as getting married or merging, entering into contracts, making gifts, or writing a valid will. ... Culpability (Blameworthiness) is the state of deserving to be blamed for a crime or offence. ... A judgment or judgement (see spelling note below), in a legal context, is synonymous with the formal decision made by a court following a lawsuit. ... In criminal law, an acquittal is the legal result of a verdict of not guilty, or some similar end of the proceeding that terminates it with prejudice without a verdict of guilty being entered against the accused. ... In law, a sentence forms the final act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... In the common law, civil law refers to the area of law governing relations between private individuals. ...

Contents

Explanation

The executive and legislative branches of modern states enact policy into laws which are then administered through the judicial system. Judges also have a residual discretion to excuse individuals from liability if it represents a just result. When considering the consequences which are to be imposed on those involved in the activities forming the subject matter of the common law or legislation, governments and judges have a choice: A legislature is a governmental deliberative body with the power to adopt laws. ... For the purposes of Public International Law and Private International Law, a state is a defined group of people, living within defined territorial boundaries and subject, more or less, to an autonomous legal system exercising jurisdiction through properly constituted courts. ... A judge or justice is an official who presides over a court. ... In the most general sense, a liability is anything that is a hindrance, or puts one at a disadvantage. ... J.L. Urban, statue of Lady Justice at court building in Olomouc, Czech Republic (1896-1901) Justice is the ideal, morally correct state of things and persons. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Legislation (or statutory law) is law which has been promulgated (or enacted) by a legislature or other governing body. ...

the criminal or civil defendant may be excused from liability as belonging to a class of person that ought to be excused, their behaviour may be considered justified, or an exculpation may be allowed on the merits of the particular case.

To be excused from liability means that although the defendant may have been a participant in the sequence of events leading to the prohibited outcome, no liability will attach to the particular defendant because he or she belongs to a class of person exempted from liability. In some cases, this will be a policy of expediency. Hence, members of the armed forces, the police or other civil organizations may be granted a degree of immunity for causing prohibited outcomes while acting in the course of their official duties, e.g. for an assault or trespass to the person caused during a lawful arrest or for an ambulance driver exceeding the speed limit in an emergency. Others are excused by virtue of their status and capacity. Others may escape liability because the quality of their actions satisfied a general public good. For example, the willingness to defend oneself and others, or property from injury may benefit society at large. Albeit that the actions of a vigilante fall outside the formal controls that would seek to ensure reasonable use of force in state-appointed police officers, such people may accidentally find themselves interrupting the commission of a crime and their actions in defence of their own or another's interests is justified out of expediency as opposed to having to wait until a police officer arrives before help can be rendered. A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... The armed forces of a state are its government sponsored defense and fighting forces and organizations. ... The Chicago Police Department arrests a man An arrest is the action of the police, or person acting under the law, to take a person into custody so that they may be forthcoming to answer for the commission of a crime. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... This article and defense of property deal with the legal concept of excused (sometimes termed justified) acts that might otherwise be illegal. ... The defense of property is a possible justification used by defendants who argue that they should not be held liable for the loss and injury they have caused because they were acting to protect their property. ... Human relationships within an ethnically diverse society. ... A vigilante is someone who takes enforcement of law or moral code into his own hands. ...


An exculpation is a defense in which a defendant argues that despite the fact that he or she has done everything to constitute the crime, tort or other form of wrong and so, in principle already has guilt for those actions and/or a liability to compensate the victim, he or she should be exculpated because of the special circumstances said to operate in favor of the defendant at the time the law was broken. In most litigation under the common law adversarial system the defendant, perhaps with the assistance of counsel, may allege or present defenses (or defences) in order to avoid liability, civil or criminal. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... // Tort is a legal term that means civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. ... Weighing scales represent the way law balances peoples interests For other senses of this word, see Law (disambiguation). ...


Excuses

This is an aspect of the public policy of parens patriae. In the criminal law, each state will consider the nature of its own society and the available evidence of the age at which antisocial behavior begins to manifest itself. Some societies will have qualities of indulgence toward the young and inexperienced and will not wish them to be exposed to the criminal law system before all other avenues of response have been exhausted. Hence, some states have a policy of doli incapax and exclude liability for all acts and omissions that would otherwise have been criminal up to a specified age. Thereafter, there may be a rebuttable presumption against the use of criminal sanctions except in more serious cases. Other states leave discretion to prosecutors to argue or the judges to rule on whether the child understood that what was being done was wrong.
The status of minor may also excuse liability in the civil law for contract, tort and other legal situations during which liabilities would otherwise attach to the infant. Where there is only minimal understanding, transactions entered into will be void, i.e. the infant is excused. When understanding grows in line with age, the law switches from excuse to exculpation, and transactions may be voidable, i.e. the courts will judge, whether in the particular circumstances, it would be right to favor the interests of the child or the interests of the other party or parties involved in the transaction. Hence, it would not be appropriate to allow a child knowingly to deceive innocent retailers or service providers into supplying value, and then allow him or her to avoid liability to pay a reasonable sum of money for those goods or services. This is a balancing of political and commercial interests.
If individuals are a danger to society and/or to themselves but not responsible through a lack of understanding, there is no point in punishment (whether in the criminal or non-criminal sense). Punishment is only justified morally if the person understands that what was done was wrong and accepts the judgment of society as part of the process of expiation and rehabilitation. Hence, as with parens patriae, the state accepts the person as being in need of care, and offers or requires medical treatment instead of subjecting such people to the stress of having to undergo a trial as to liability.
This criminal defense straddles the divide between excuse and exculpation. It works by showing that the defendant's mind was not in control of the body's movements at the relevant time and that this loss of control was not foreseeable. For example, a diabetic suffering a hypoglycaemic attack will not be liable for any loss or damage caused. To that extent, it borrows from the policy excuse favoring those who are suffering from a mental illness, but allows the full trial as to liability to proceed. For a detailed comparative law discussion, see automatism (case law)

The defense of infancy is a form of defense known as an excuse so that defendants falling within the definition of an infant are excluded from criminal liability for their actions, if at the relevant time, they had not reached an age of criminal responsibility. ... Public policy or ordre public is the body of fundamental principles that underpin the operation of legal systems in each state. ... Parens patriae is Latin for parent of the fatherland or parent of the homeland. ... Human relationships within an ethnically diverse society. ... A conclusive presumption (also known as an irrebuttable presumption) in English law is an presumption of law that cannot that cannot be rebutted by evidence and must be taken to be the case whatever the evidence to the contrary. ... In law, a rebuttable presumption is an assumption that is made that will stand as a fact unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... In law, a person who is not yet a legal adult is known as a minor (known in some places as an infant or juvenile). ... In the common law, civil law refers to the area of law governing relations between private individuals. ... A contract is a promise or an agreement made of a set of promises. ... // Tort is a legal term that means civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. ... In a criminal trial, the insanity defenses are possible defenses by excuse, via which defendants may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as they were mentally ill at the time of their allegedly criminal actions. ... In criminal law of commonwealth countries, the defense of mental disorder - sometimes called the defence of mental illness - is a legal defence by excuse, by which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as they were at the time of their... The MNaghten Rules are used to establish insanity as an excuse to potential criminal liability, but the definitional criteria establish insanity in the legal and not the psychological sense. ... Look up Punishment in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Morality refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of good and evil —also referred to as right or wrong, used within three contexts: individual conscience; systems of principles and judgments — sometimes called moral values —shared within a cultural, religious, secular, Humanist, or philosophical community; and codes... The Atonement is the central doctrine of Christianity: everything else derives from it. ... This theory of punishment is based on the notion that punishment is to be inflicted on a offender so as to reform him, or rehabilitate him so as to make his re-integration into society easier. ... Automatism is the practice or theory of the spontaneous production of words (speech or writing), drawing, painting or other creative production, or behavior in general, without conscious self-control or self-censorship. ... This article is about the disease that features high blood sugar. ... Hypoglycemia is a medical term referring to a pathologic state produced and usually defined by a lower than normal amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. ... In criminal law, automatism is a complex and sometimes controversial excuse to liability where physical or environmental factors negate the existence of the actus reus (Latin for guilty act // Voluntariness La Forest J. in the Canadian Supreme Court case of R v Parks (1992) 75 CCC (3d) 287, 302 asserted...

Exculpations include:

In this situation, the defendant has actually done everything to constitute the breach of the law and intended to do it in order to avoid some threatened or actual harm. Thus, some degree of liability already attaches to the defendant for what was done. In law, the usual rule is that the defendant's motive for breaking the law is irrelevant although, in the criminal law, this may reduce the sentence. The basis of the defense argues that the threats made by the other person make the defendant's entire behavior involuntary and therefore the liability should reduced or removed. The extent to which this defense should be allowed, if at all, is a simple matter of public policy. A state may say that no threat should force a person deliberately to break the law, particularly if this breach will cause loss or damage to a third person. Alternatively, a state may take the view that even though people may have ordinary levels of courage, they may nevertheless be coerced into agreeing to break the law and this human weakness should have some recognition in the law. For example, suppose that a group of terrorists kidnap A's family and instruct A to carry a large bomb into a crowded area as the price for the release of his family. If A carries out these instructions, making no effort to contact the police or to warn those in the danger area, the issue of liability for death and injury resulting depends on whether the state wishes to encourage terrorists to use local citizens of well-known reputation as their bomb carriers. This is not a legal but a political decision.
In the civil law, duress is similarly only an exculpation, rendering contracts and other transactions voidable, and offering only minor mitigation in the calculation of the amount of any damages payable.
The fundamental policy operating here is ignorantia juris non excusat, i.e. the state cannot allow ignorance of the law to be a defense. This would unduly encourage the lazy and the deceitful to trade on their ignorance (real or otherwise). Thus, only mistakes relating to the factual basis of what is being attempted can form this defense and, in the majority of situations, it will only offer limited benefit to a defendant of ordinary capacity since the state owes no general duty to save citizens from the effects of their own ignorance or stupidity. Nevertheless, there may be limited circumstances in which people may honestly believe things that either prevent them from forming the requisite mens rea or from reaching an id idem agreement
This is an example of a purely mitigatory defense in that, in the few situations when it is allowed to operate, it only reduces the level of criminal liability. In most legal systems, it cannot extinguish liability. It is a natural part of human nature that people get angry when they are provoked. But the state has a positive interest in maintaining good order and therefore, no matter what is done or said, people are not supposed to react violently or to cause loss or damage. Even though certain forms of physical contact or particular words might cause even reasonable people to become seriously annoyed, the state cannot sanction or justify retaliation. Thus, in most aspects of the law, any loss of control is taken to be an aggravating factor that, in the criminal law or the law of intentional torts, might well lead to an increase in sentencing, or the award of punitive or exemplary damages.

Duress (coercion) (as a term of jurisprudence) is a possible defense, via excuse, by which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law. ... Duress in the context of contract law is a common law defence, and if you are successful in proving that the contract is vitiated by duress, you can rescind the contract, since it is then voidable. ... In law, damages refers to the money paid or awarded to a claimant (as it is known in the UK) or plaintiff (in the US) following their successful claim in a civil action. ... Mistake of law is a defense sometimes raised in criminal cases, although rarely with any success. ... Mistake of law and mistake of fact are two types of defense by excuse, via which a defendant may argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law or liable for damages under a civil law action. ... In contract law a mistake is incorrect understanding by one or more parties to a contract and may be used as grounds to invalidate the agreement. ... It has been suggested that presumed knowledge of the law be merged into this article or section. ... The mens rea is the Latin term for guilty mind used in the criminal law. ... For the country-specific law, see provocation in English law. ...

References

  • Berman, Mitchell N., Justification and Excuse, Law and Morality, (2003) Col. 53, No. 1 Duke Law Journal [1]
  • Gorr, Michael & Harwood, Sterling, (eds.), Controversies in Criminal Law. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
  • Gorr, Michael & Harwood, Sterling, (eds.), Crime and Punishment: Philosophic Explorations. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1995.
  • Hart, H.L.A Punishment and Responsibility: Essays in the Philosophy of Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968. ISBN 0-19-825181-5
  • Kadish, Excusing Crime, (1987) Vol. 75 California Law Review, 257.
  • Robinson, P. H. Criminal Law Defenses: A Systematic Analysis, (1982) 82 Columbia Law Review 199.
  • Smith, J.C. Justification and Excuse in the Criminal Law, (1989) Crim. LR 93.
  • Westen & Mangiafico, The Criminal Defense of Duress: A Justification, Not an Excuse - And Why It Matters, (2003) Vol. 6 Buffalo Criminal Law Review, 833.

  Results from FactBites:
 
excuse: Definition, Synonyms and Much More from Answers.com (2591 words)
An excuse is essentially a defense for an individual's conduct that is intended to mitigate the individual's blameworthiness for a particular act or to explain why the individual acted in a specific manner.
In jurisprudence, an excuse or justification is a form of immunity which must be distinguished from an exculpation.
In this context, "to excuse" means to grant or obtain an exemption for a group of persons sharing a common characteristic from a potential liability.
Excuse - Search Results - MSN Encarta (154 words)
Excuse, explanation offered in the hope of being forgiven or understood.
An excuse or justification is offered as a way of either explaining why an...
Alcohol: There are two reasons for…, Alcohol: 'Tis not the drinking that…, Alibis and Excuses: Macavity, Macavity, there's no one…, Apologies:...
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