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Excuse: Theory - The Range Of Excuses, The Rationale Of Excuses, Justification And Excuse: Similarities And Differences

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law

To approach the theory of excuse, one needs first to understand how excuses relate to other components of punishable, criminal conduct. Excuses become relevant only after proof that the actor has committed an unjustified act in violation of a criminal statute. Acts that fall outside the scope of the criminal law require no excuse; nor do nominal but justified violations of the law. If the actor has committed a criminal wrong (an unjustified violation of the statute), excuses speak to the question whether the actor is personally accountable for the wrongful act. This factor of personal accountability goes by many different names, including culpability, blameworthiness, fault, and mens rea. These overlapping terms have in common their logical incompatibility with excuses. A valid excuse implies that the actor is not to blame (not culpable, not at fault, without mens rea in the normative sense) for the wrongful act.

GEORGE P. FLETCHER

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