An Attitudinal Theory of Excuse in Criminal Law
The mother lode of criminal law scholarship is a unitary theory of excuses, that is, a normative account as to why a person who engages in conduct that a criminal statute prohibits ought nevertheless not be blamed for it. After defining "excuse" against commentators who argue that it cannot be coherently defined, and after criticizing competing theories of excuse, I argue that the feature that renders persons normatively blameless -- and, typically, legally blameless, too -- for engaging in conduct that a criminal statute prohibits is the possession of a certain attitude with which he engages in it. A person is normatively blameless if, despite engaging in conduct that a statute prohibits, he was motivated by proper respect for interests that the statute seeks to protect.
Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure
Date of this Version
Peter Westen, "An Attitudinal Theory of Excuse in Criminal Law" (August 19, 2004). bepress Legal Series. bepress Legal Series.Working Paper 341.