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Justification can be a defense in a prosecution for a criminal offense. When an act is justified, a person is not criminally liable even though his act would otherwise constitute an offense.
Justification in jurisprudence is not the same as an excuse. A justification sets forth an exception to the prohibition of committing certain offenses. For example, to intentionally commit a homicide would be considered murder. However, it is not considered a crime if committed in self-defense.
In contrast, an excuse (legal) is a defense that recognizes a crime was committed, but that for the defendant, although committing a socially undesirable crime, conviction and punishment would be morally inappropriate because of a personal inadequacy, such as mental disability, sufficient age, intense fear of death, lacked the ability to control his conduct.
- Richard M., Bonnie; Anne M. Coughlin, John C. Jefferies, Jr. & Peter W. Low (1997). Criminal Law, 324, Westbury, NY: The Foundation Press.