Principles of Adjudication: Doctrines of Excuse

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Book Chapter

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This chapter reviews studies on community views on disability excuses, namely insanity, immaturity and involuntary intoxication, and duress and entrapment defenses. The disability caused by mental incapacity is recognized by the respondents as a valid reason to exculpate a person. Formulations of mental incapacity that recognize both a control and cognitive deficit are the preferred ones; the respondents seem to judge that dysfunction of either type is a valid trigger for exculpation. Involuntary intoxication is analyzed in legal codes on principles similar to the ones used for the analysis of mental illness, and this seems appropriate to the subjects. They show a similar pattern of liability for involuntary intoxication as for insanity: they recognize both cognitive and control dysfunctions as an excuse; and the greater the dysfunction, the greater the likelihood of excuse. Duress scenarios provide at least a mitigation of liability for offenses, and the degree of mitigation is a function of the degree of coercion the respondents see in the particular situation.


criminal liability, criminal law, disability excuses, insanity, immaturity, involuntary intoxication, duress, entrapment

Publication Title

Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert