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P ART VI. B : E XCUSE D EFENSES G ENERALLY N OVEMBER 28, 2006 N ATURE OF E XCUSES Justification v. Excuses: - Justified conduct correct behavior that is to be encouraged or tolerated in the future o Focus is on the act and its circumstances, not the actor - Excuse legal conclusion that the conduct is wrong/undesirable, but that criminal liability is not going to be imposed b/c some characteristic of the actor undercuts his blameworthiness o Shift blame for harm from the actor to the disability or other cause of the excusing conditions o Focus on the actor Rationale for Recognizing Excuses: - Distributive principle based on just desert o Recognition of excuses in order to exculpate blameless offenders - Utilitarian distributive principle based on special deterrence o Support recognition of excuses Little special deterrent value in sanctioning offender if he is unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct o General deterrence, however Discourage potential offenders Common Requirement of Excuses - Disability or mistake must cause an excusing condition - Actor excused if he couldn’t reasonably have been expected to have avoided the violation o B/c of abnormal circumstances or characteristics Too difficult for actor to appreciate the criminality of his conduct o B/c of a reasonable mistake, actor didn’t realize that his conduct violated the law or was wrongful Mistake excuse Disability v. Mistake Excuses - Disability excuse: o Disability abnormality sets the actor apart from the general population - Mistake excuse: 1
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o Actor should not be punished b/c he has acted in a way that anyone else would in the same situation o Actor’s mistake is reasonable - Both rely on the conclusion that the actor couldn’t reasonably have been expected to avoid the violation Disability Requirement - Disability abnormal condition of the actor at the time of the offense - Observable manifestations - Acquit the actor b/c he is different - Must have confirmable manifestations beyond the criminal conduct at hand - Insanity defense: o Requires that the Defendant be suffering from a mental disease or defect Excludes abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or antisocial conduct Excusing Conditions - Condition that renders actor blameless must be created - Requirement actor’s disability must cause a particular result/mental condition - Mental illness must play a sufficient role in the commission of the offense, ex. Four Types of Excusing Conditions - Conduct constituting offense not voluntary - Conduct is voluntary but actor doesn’t accurately perceive the physical nature or consequences of the conduct - Actor accurately perceives and understands the consequences of the conduct but doesn’t know that the conduct is wrong or criminal - Actor accurately perceives the nature & consequences of the conduct and knows its wrongfulness and criminality but lacks the ability to control the conduct o To extent that actor can no longer reasonably be expected to conform his
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