excuse (defense) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

An excuse is a type of criminal defense where the accused admits to the criminal act but maintains that they are not blameworthy because of extenuating circumstances.

In the field of criminal law, there are two main categories of defenses: excuses and justifications. While justifications focus on the rightness or necessity of the defendant’s actions, excuses center on the blameworthiness or responsibility of the defendant. In other words, excuses acknowledge that the defendant committed the criminal act but claim that he or she should not be held responsible due to mitigating circumstances.

An excuse is often raised when a defendant is facing charges for a crime that they committed due to factors beyond their control. Examples of such factors include insanity, diminished capacity, duress, and intoxication. These factors can make it difficult for the defendant to control their actions or fully understand the consequences of their behavior.

One common type of excuse defense is the defense of insanity. This defense asserts that the defendant was not able to understand that their actions were wrong at the time the crime was committed. It is important to note that the legal definition of insanity may differ from the colloquial understanding of the term. In legal terms, insanity refers to a mental state that precludes the defendant from understanding the nature and consequences of their actions.

Another type of excuse defense is diminished capacity, which claims that the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime was such that they lacked the specific intent or knowledge required for the crime. This defense is similar to the insanity defense but focuses on the defendant’s mental state rather than their overall mental capacity.

Duress is another commonly raised excuse defense. This defense asserts that the defendant was coerced into committing the crime by someone else and that they had no choice but to comply due to a reasonable fear of harm.

Intoxication is another type of excuse defense that can be raised if the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crime. However, this defense is generally only successful if the intoxication was involuntary or if it was so severe that the defendant could not form the specific intent required for the crime.

In order to successfully raise an excuse defense, the defendant must provide evidence that supports the assertion that they were not fully responsible for their actions. This can involve presenting testimony from mental health experts, witnesses to the circumstances of the crime, or other forms of evidence that can support the defense.

It is worth noting that excuse defenses are not always successful and that the specific circumstances of each case can greatly impact the likelihood of success. However, in cases where the defense is successful, it can result in reduced charges or a complete acquittal for the defendant.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/09/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.