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The explanation for the performance or nonperformance of a particular act; a reason alleged in court as a basis for exemption or relief from guilt.

An excuse is essentially a defense for an individual's conduct that is intended to mitigate the individual's blameworthiness for a particular act or to explain why the individual acted in a specific manner. A driver sued for Negligence, for example, might raise the defense of excuse if the driver was rushing an injured person to a hospital, or if some unforeseen illness or mechanical failure made safe operation of the vehicle impossible.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

EXCUSE. A reason alleged for the doing or not doing a thing. This word presents two ideas differing essentially from each other. In one case an excuse may be made in, order to own that the party accused is not guilty; in another, by showing that though guilty, he is less so, than he appears to be. Take, for example, the case of a sheriff who has an execution against an individual, and who in performance of his duty, arrests him; in an action by the defendant against the sheriff, the latter may prove the facts, and this shall be a sufficient excuse for him: this is an excuse of the first kind, or a complete justification; the sheriff was guilty of no offence. But suppose, secondly, that the sheriff has an execution against Paul, and by mistake, and without any malicious design, be arrests Peter instead of Paul; the fact of his having the execution against Paul and the mistake being made, will not justify the sheriff, but it will extenuate and excuse his conduct, and this will be an excuse of the second kind.
     3. Persons are sometimes excused for the commission of acts, which ordinarily are crimes, either because they had no intention of doing wrong, or because they had no power of judging, and therefore had no criminal will (q.v.); or having power, of judging they had no choice, and were compelled by necessity. Among the first class may be placed infants under the age of discretion, lunatics, and married women committing an offence in the presence of their husbands, not malum in se, as treason or murder; 1 Hale's P. C. 44, 45 or in offences relating to the domestic concern or management of the house, as the keeping of a bawdy house. Hawk. b. 1, c. 1, s. 12. Among acts of the second kind may be classed, the beating or killing another in self-defence; the destruction of property in order to prevent a more serious calamity, as the tearing down of a house on fire, to prevent its spreading to the neighboring property, and the like. See Dalloz, Dict. h.t.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
But the Tramp's actions are rendered excusably unlawful because they are rooted in the same fundamental needs that legitimize his thieving in Easy Street.
He has overlooked not only the possibilities of commodification, but also, and less excusably, an approach to the question of animal welfare that is more conservative, methodologically as well as politically, but possibly more efficacious, than rights-mongering.
could be true just in case the key NP is construed as a name, otherwise not; this might happen, for example, if I wished to deny the spiritual leadership characteristics of the individual concerned (let us say the first to bear this title) but had excusably forgotten that his given name was Bsod-nams-rgya-mtsho.
He might very well have been a merciful Caesar or a benevolent Napoleon, and a painter who worked at his portrait a year or two later was excusably reminded of so many illustrious makers of history that he declared it to be a hard task to isolate the individual character of the model.
Like Rowe, the Nazi spy Poole also believes that "even murder can sometimes be excused," a truth he relates, tellingly, with "an intolerable confidence," as he appeals to Rowe as another man of intelligence, a cut above the sheep who may or may not have to be excusably murdered (25).
The title is perhaps excusably triumphalist, but it is hardly sustained by the chronology of American art through the period 1900-50, which Part 1 of the exhibition covers (until August 22).
The sweep is broad, analysis complex, the expression excusably abstruse, but the sight line, fixed on long-range goals, is maintained throughout.
Consider the historic use of the "irresistible impulse" conception of insanity as a vehicle for excusing all manner of virtuous outlaws, from the cuckold to the battered woman.(130) And if their disgust sensibilities tell decisionmakers that a particular offender, such as the homophobe, deserves solicitude, we can expect them to see him as excusably "sick," too, a lesson taught to us by the selective receptivity of the law to the "homosexual panic" defense.(131)
I want her story -- the episodes in which I figure -- to be the one about the compassionate, excusably self-congratulatory teacher who helps the teetering student find her poise, her voice, her way.
Or rather - to an impartial eye - in the midst of his good points little defects and peculiarities were visible of which he was himself excusably unconscious - An air - a tone of his former profession lingered over & round him - a touch of the pedagogue - unobtrusive but also unmistakeable.(18)
Less excusably, there is a doctoral dissertation on Rameau's orchestration based almost exclusively on the Oeuvres completes and thus largely invalid.[4]
This time, SOURCE: Mutual UFO Network half a century later, most folks watching YouTube videos are still totally flummoxed by what they understandably and excusably can't comprehend."