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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 ?
Sans garder rancune aux effets premiers ou secondaires des medicaments auxquels il se voit oblige de s'accomoder, car il garde sans doute l'espoir de se soulager, sinon de se guerir, la medecine reste malgre tout une science: Proust aime a reveler de temps a autres que les medecins sont ignorants, mais cela est dit avec un esprit de generosite, ainsi le narrateur a tendance a excuser la betise des praticiens meme si ceux-ci aggravent la situation des malades.
l'ecrivain (ce pere qu'il cherche a comprendre, a excuser et
Aucun de ces facteurs ne doit cependant etre interprete de quelque maniere que ce soit comme pouvant excuser, minimiser ou justifier la violence.
Il est difficile, a cet egard, de porter un jugement general sur les ecrivains proletariens concernes par ces derives, et l'on sait gre a Paul Aron de decrire cellesci sans chercher ni a les excuser ni a les verser au compte d'un requisitoire collectif.
Like the excuser and unlike the morally stupid, the condoner recognizes that a wrong has been done; but he neither forgives nor mitigates the wrong with an excuse.
Vous doit faire excuser le peu d'incidens qu'il y a, & la contrainte dont il a fallu se servir par tout.
(17) "Amis lecteurs, ie ne prendray grand peine / Pour excuser ma rude & sotte veine, Sachant que ceux qui ont coeur vertueux / Ne me voudront estre si rogoureux / De n'excuser le sexe feminin, / D'un coeur courtois, & d'un vouloir benin.
Pour lui, la Republique ne saurait "minimiser ni excuser" les crimes et atrocites commis durant ce conflit, precisant que cette reconnaissance vise notamment a "encourager le travail historique sur tous les disparus de la guerre d'Algerie".
Hassan Benabicha qui a fait mieux que M'hamed Fakhir, lors du precedent CHAN en 2014 avec une place en quarts avant de quitter la competition sur une defaite surprenante de (4-3) contre le Nigeria alors que le Onze national menait par (3-0), peut nous [beaucoup moins que] excuser [beaucoup plus grand que].
Ils cachent sous le voile de l'originalite leurs angoisses et leur honte, dussent-ils donner des coups de canif dans des bottes neuves pour excuser les trous des souliers passes et des bottines a venir.