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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 ?
On the one hand, they often think about justification defenses and excuses as more discontinuous than Horder does.
After feeding the kittens for three months, I stopped, giving myself the excuse they were grown enough now and it was time for them to become serf-sufficient like their mother.
But, young people, just like their parents, still find excuses to dodge exercise.
The last of the good excuses is gone with this guide to 15-minute, no-sweat workouts presenting 10 minutes of aerobic activity, 4 minutes of strengthening exercises, and 1 minute of stretches.
They'll help you concoct phony excuses. For example, there's Escape-A-Date, a service of Cingular Wireless.
"While we absolutely make no excuses for the behavior of the children, we are absolutely frustrated with the way that these stories are portrayed," Mensah says.
You don't want to make excuses and the state and public don't want to hear excuses."
There are only two responses to every question: An answer and an excuse. I can tolerate the wrong answer, but not excuses for inaction.
Part II introduces and defends a competing account--the "structural equivalence thesis"--pursuant to which justifications and excuses play the same role in the structural logic of moral and legal reasoning, even though their substantive content may differ.
They also need to lose the excuses. "Not one time does a bar owner say, 'we're failing because of me,' " he notes.
Tarkington Elementary School was recently named a School of Distinction by the No Excuses University Network for its commitment to set a strong foundation of academics and character for all students.