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A sufficient or acceptable excuse or explanation made in court for an act that is otherwise unlawful; the showing of an adequate reason, in court, why a defendant committed the offense for which he or she is accused that would serve to relieve the defendant of liability.
A legal excuse for the performance or nonperformance of a particular act that is the basis for exemption from guilt. A classic example is the excuse of Self-Defense offered as justification for the commission of a murder.
JUSTIFICATION. The act by which a party accused shows and maintains a good
and legal reason in court, why he did the thing he is called upon to answer.
2. The subject will be considered by examining, 1. What acts are justifiable. 2. The manner of making the justification. 3. Its effects.
3.-1. The acts to be justified are those committed with a warrant, and those committed without a warrant. 1. It is a general rule, that a warrant or execution, issued by a court having jurisdiction, whether the same be right or wrong, justifies the officer to whom it is directed and who is by law required to execute it, and is a complete justification to the officer for obeying its command. But when the warrant is not merely voidable, but is absolutely void, as, for want of jurisdiction in the court which issued it, or by reason of the privilege of the defendant, as in the case of the arrest of an ambassador, who cannot waive his privilege and immunities by submitting to be arrested on such warrant, the officer is no longer justified. 1 Baldw. 240; see 4 Mass. 232; 13 Mass. 286, 334; 14 Mass. 210. 2. A person may justify many acts, while acting without any authority from a court or magistrate. He may justifiably, even, take the life of an aggressor, while acting in the defence of himself, his wife, children, and servant, or for the protection of his house, when attacked with a felonious intent, or even for the protection of his personal property. See Self- defence. A man may justify what would, otherwise, have been a trespass, an entry on the land of another for various purposes; as, for example, to demand a debt due to him by the owner of the land to remove chattels which belong to him, but this entry must be peaceable; to exercise an incorporeal right; ask for lodging's at an inn. See 15 East, 615, note e; 2 Lill. Ab. 134; 15 Vin. Ab. 31; Ham. N. P. 48 to 66; Dane's Ab. Index, h.t.; Entry. It is an ancient principle of the common law, that a trespass may be justified in many cases. Thus: a man may enter on the land of another, to kill a fox or otter, which are beasts against the common profit. 11 H. VIII. 10. So, a house may be pulled down if the adjoining one be on fire, to prevent a greater destruction. 13 H. VIII. 16, b. Tua res agitur paries cum proximus ardet. So, the suburbs of a city may be demolished in time of war, for the good of the commonwealth. 8 Ed. IV. 35, b. So, a man may enter on his neighbor to make a bulwark in defence of the realm. 21 H. VIII. b. So, a house may be broken to arrest a felon. 13 Ed. IV. 9, a; Doder. Eng. Law. 219, 220. In a civil action, a man may justify a libel, or slanderous words, by proving their truth, or because the defendant had a right, upon the particular occasion, either to write and publish the writing, or to utter the words; as, when slanderous words are found in a report of a committee of congress, or in an indictment, or words of a slanderous nature are uttered in the course of debate in the legislature by a member, or at the bar, by counsel, when properly instructed by his client on the subject. See Debate; Slander; Com. Dig. Pleader, 2 L 3 to 2 L 7.
4.-2. In general, justification must be specially pleaded, and it cannot be given in evidence under the plea of the general issue.
5.-3. When the plea of justification is supported by the evidence, it is a complete bar to the action. Vide Excuse.