What is the difference between an excuse defense and a justification defense?

03/03/2007 - Criminal - State: GA #789

Full Question:

What is the difference between an excuse defense and a justification defense? Also where can I find some court cases involving the two?


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, 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.

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03/03/2007 - Category: Criminal - State: GA #789

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