There are two broad categories of defenses for criminal activities: justification defenses and excuse defenses. Unlike justification defenses, which effectively justify and make the criminal action acceptable, excuse defenses merely excuse the action. These defenses do not render the actions acceptable, but they do allow a jury to recognize why the defendant did something.
One of the biggest excuse defenses is duress. Duress involves a person being forced to do something based on a choice of two evils. It is a similar defense to necessity. The two defenses are distinguished based on the forces acting on the individual. In necessity, the force that causes the defendant to do something cannot have been man-made – it must be from nature. Duress, on the other hand, is caused by the actions of another person.
Excuse defenses are seen as giving a jury chance to accept why something was done and to excuse it. Justification defenses not only tell a jury why something happened but also render the actions taken by the defendant acceptable. Excuse defenses, on the other hand, do not make the actions taken acceptable. The actions are merely accepted and deemed to be a result of something else. They are not cited as being acceptable, but they do excuse the defendant’s actions. The jury opts not to punish the person because of his or her excuse.