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What is Justification?

Updated on December 4, 2016

Justification, in law, a reasonable excuse or lawfully sufficient reason for acting or failing to act, or any fact that prevents an act from being wrongful.

In connection with homicide, the terms "justification" and "excuse" are practically synonymous, and upon proving either one of these defenses the accused is entitled to an acquittal. Common examples of justifiable or excusable homicide are killings committed in self-defense, or by a public officer while attempting to arrest or to prevent the escape of a criminal. In the law of torts acts which would otherwise be wrongful, such as entering another person's property without permission, may be justified by necessity. Another example of justification is the destruction of property to prevent the spread of a fire.

The assent of an injured party, voluntarily given, may also provide justification of an otherwise wrongful act. In actions for libel and slander truth is ordinarily held to be a complete justification, but mere belief in the truth of a defamatory statement which is not in fact true does not constitute a justification.

Other facts which are considered justifications of libel or slander are the bad character of the plaintiff, the existence of circumstances of anger or passion, and the publication of a retraction or an apology.


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