Sometimes, when a person commits what is seen as a crime, there is a very good reason for that crime to have been committed. When this situation is true, a person may be able to claim one of the many defenses that are available. These defenses are split into two broad categories, justification and excuse defenses.
Justification defenses are those defenses that make the actions OK but maybe even are applauded as being the “right” thing to do in the situation. One of the most basic justification defenses is self defense. In a self defense situation, a person claims that he or she killed or harmed another person because that person was going to or was attacking him or her.
In order to claim self defense, the person, except in very limited situations, cannot have been the original aggressor. This means that if a person attacks another person and then the other person attacks back with deadly force or more force, the original attacker cannot claim self defense in the event that he or she inflicted serious injuries or death. It isn’t self defense if the person started the whole mess. While this rule is generally true, there are some very limited situations in which a person who was the original aggressor can actually claim self defense.
Other justification defenses include defense of others, defense of property, and defense of habitation. The final main justification defense is necessity. Necessity details that a person did something illegal or committed a crime because if he or she hadn’t committed the crime, something way more awful would have occurred. This defense is something similar to the excuse of duress except that the force causing the illegal or criminal act in necessity cannot come from a human source.
Excuse defenses are the other broad group. These defenses do not condone the actions of the defendant but the actions are excused because the jury believes that they would have done the same thing or something similar when faced with the same situation. Duress falls under this category.
In duress, a person says that he or she did something illegal because another person was going to do something awful to him or her or to someone close to him or her. Duress cannot be used to excuse murder or manslaughter because people are expected to give up their own lives or suffer some punishment at the hands of another rather than kill an innocent. Other examples of excuses include insanity, intoxication, and infancy.