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Posts: 156
3 days ago

Question 1.

Identify and explain the three rationales for excuse defenses.

Question 2.

Whether and how intoxication serves as a defense to criminal liability hinges on several factors. Identify and explain these factors.
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Criminal Law (Justice Series)
Edition: 2nd
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Answer 1

There are three main reasons for excuse defenses. The first is concerned with deterrence. Namely, if a person cannot be deterred, what is the point of punishing him or her? More generally, if a person cannot grasp that what he or she did is wrong (not because of ignorance, but because of some deficiency), then no amount of criminal law or punishment will be capable of stopping that person. This requires weighing two competing sets of interests, those of society in catching and punishing lawbreakers and those of the undeterrable actor. In some cases, the pain inflicted on the undeterrable actor may deserve more weight than society's concern with catching criminals. Another reason for excuse defenses is a lack of causation.
Causation is a core requirement in certain criminal offenses (particularly result crimes). If a defendant's conduct is caused by factors beyond her control, it does not make sense to punish her for it.

Answer 2

First, and most importantly, it is critical to determine whether the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary. A person who voluntarily becomes intoxicated will have a considerably harder time having his or her conduct "excused." Another factor is the role that intoxication plays in the commission of a crime. Did it just negate mens rea, or did it so affect the defendant to the extent that he or she "blacked out" and did not even commit a voluntary act? Yet another factor is the type of offense. A strict liability crime requires no mens rea, so an intoxication defense may be impossible. In contrast, specific intent offenses are such that the defendant's intoxication can be rather important.
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