Execution of Public Duty

Fundamentals of Criminal Law by Adam J. McKee

In criminal law, one of the nuanced defenses that future professionals like you may encounter is the Execution of Public Duty Rule. This legal principle provides immunity to public servants when they perform actions that are authorized by law but would otherwise be considered criminal offenses.

Contextual Applications

Lawful Execution as a Use-Case

A paradigmatic application of this rule occurs in the context of capital punishment. When an executioner administers a lawful death sentence, the act, while resulting in the death of an individual, is not classified as murder. In this case, the rule serves to protect the executioner, whose actions are conducted under legal authority.

Extension to Private Individuals

It’s important to note that the Execution of Public Duty Rule extends beyond public servants to private citizens acting under the directive of public authorities. These can include individuals compelled to perform actions by law or by orders from public servants.

The Law Enforcement Justification Scenario

A sub-category within this rule is what is commonly referred to as “law enforcement justification.” This scenario involves private citizens, often informants, who collaborate with law enforcement agencies. For instance, when an informant under police supervision buys narcotics for the purpose of aiding an investigation, they are immunized from criminal liability for drug purchase.

Legal Implications and Importance

This defense serves as a framework for understanding how legal protections are afforded to individuals—both public servants and private citizens—engaged in acts that serve a broader legal or public interest. This knowledge is vital for prosecuting attorneys who need to know when charges can be brought, defense attorneys who may invoke this rule, and policymakers who must understand the breadth of its impact.

Concluding Remarks

The Execution of Public Duty Rule is an essential component of criminal law, offering critical protections that allow the legal system to function effectively. Whether you aspire to be a prosecutor, a defense attorney, or any other criminal justice professional, a thorough understanding of this rule will enable you to navigate complex situations involving the execution of public duties. As you delve deeper into your studies, consider how this rule interacts with other defenses and legal principles, enriching your understanding of the criminal justice system as a whole.


Modification History

File Created:  07/13/2018

Last Modified:  09/13/2023

[ Back | Content | Next]

This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License

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.