Definition of EXCUSE


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 hushands, not malum in se, as treason or murder, 1 Hales
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.


Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition

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