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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 30168
Experience:  Criminal Justice Degree, JD with Criminal Law Concentration. Worked for the DA and U.S. Attorney.
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What is the difference between justifications and excuses

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What is the difference between justifications and excuses? Give examples of justifications that might serve as defenses.

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Justification means that, while the defendant did technically violate the prohibitions in the statute, legally, he did nothing wrong. This is because the benefits of his behavior outweigh the harm caused. The primary example here is self-defense. A person is justified in taking someone's life if he reasonably and accurately believes that the other person presents a real and immediate threat to his well-being. In that case, a person is justified in meeting the aggressor's force with equal force. Defense of others is also a defense in a situation where the person being protected would have been justified in using self-defense. Another example is necessity - where a person has to act to avoid significant harm, even if his acts violate the law, he may be found to be justified if he had no adequate alternative under the circumstances. With that said, necessity is never a defense to murder.

An excuse, on the other hand, means that, while the defendant's conduct is wrong, he morally is not blameworthy. That usually means a situation where the defendant has a disabling condition - for example, if I hit someone while having a seizure, I'm not guilty of assault. Insanity also falls into the category of an excuse, rather than a justification.
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