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

August 2004