Rules of Conduct: Doctrines of Justification

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Book Chapter

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This chapter reviews three studies that examine community views on three kinds of situations in which an individual has a justification for the use of force: when the force is used in self-defense; when the force is used in defense of property; or when it is used to apprehend a person fleeing from a crime he has committed. In all of these studies, the community judges that these justifications are more compelling than what the legal codes are willing to grant. Respondents frequently assign no liability in cases to which the code attaches liability. Even when respondents assign liability, they typically assign considerably less punishment than would be suggested by codes. This discrepancy between community standards and criminal codes may stem from the fact that subjects feel that the criminal justice system is not likely to apprehend criminals, convict them when it apprehends them, or justly punish them when it convicts them. They may feel that the criminal justice system is failing in its role of protecting citizens.


criminal law, justification defenses, offense prohibition, justified conduct, law enforcement, self-defense, criminal liability, community view

Publication Title

Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert