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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 ?
(114) This is not surprising, given the routine acknowledgment by members of the academy that provocation exhibits the appearance of both excusatory and justificatory elements.
385, 418 (2005) ("In sum, the partial defense of provocation includes elements of both excusatory and justificatory rationales.") (emphasis added); Samuel H.
(114.) See CYNTHIA LEE, MURDER AND THE REASONABLE MAN: PASSION AND FEAR IN THE CRIMINAL COURTROOM 227-28 (2003) (arguing that neither justification nor excuse alone can explain both the heat of passion and adequate provocation requirements); Bergelson, supra note 7, at 418 (asserting that "the partial defense of provocation includes elements of both excusatory and justificatory rationales").
(38) But they need not have similarly stark notice of their possible justificatory and excusatory defenses.
An approach that focuses on minimising the chances of evidence being excluded is excusatory, and it would seem, in a qualified fashion, to condone deviance.
In an excusatory approach, the vulnerability remains that the ends may be seen to justify the means.
is the main ascriptive (excusatory) focus." Horder's multidimensional approach demonstrates "that emotions may find intentional expression in action in different ways, through a distinction between cases in which D acts for explanatory reasons (when the action is closer to the involuntary end of the spectrum), and cases in which D acts for adopted reasons (when the action is closer to a case in which D retains full rational control over his or her conduct)." [72]
Thus, subject to the strategic and common goods limitations imposed by his sufficient conditions, Horder's proposal contemplates providing a "diminished capacity" plea (24) to some defendants who suffer from deficiencies that do not wholly undermine responsibility, when these defendants find themselves in circumstances that contain an incipient or incomplete excusatory factor.
Importantly, respect in these terms requires the state to recognize that defendants are "human beings who are capable of forming and acting on intelligent conceptions of how their lives should be lived." [141] Horder's project in this respect is to create enough "excusatory space" to support the liberal values of personal autonomy and tolerance of moral pluralism while still safeguarding societal strategic interests and common goods through a consideration of sufficient conditions.
Hence theorists have striven to find a "third theory" capable of accommodating both provocation's excusatory element found in the fact that D was driven to act by great anger, and provocation's, justificatory element found in the fact that (inmost jurisdictions) this anger must have been sparked by grave provocation.
They set up what they take to be two extreme alternative explanations for the provocation defense (the impaired volition and proportionate response theories), and seek to show that these explanations cannot account for the excusatory basis of the defense.
My own view is that, depending on its definition, the provocation doctrine (like self-defense as shown by Uniacke and others) sometimes reflects justification theory while at other times operates as an excusatory claim.(10)