This is probably so obvious that it doesn’t deserve a blog post by anyone but I’ll admit that I struggled with this for a few hours. I have an API that I am putting together for a microservice.

This is a little JSON API and SpringMVC makes it very easy. But when there are exceptions most of the guides I found send you towards a Thymeleaf solution that outputs HTML. That’s not what I want, I want a good HTTP response code and a JSON response that the client can parse to help them figure out what went wrong. There’s a great write-up on exception handling in Spring but that, I believe, takes you in the Thymeleaf direction as well.

My Custom Exception

Maybe this has my code too tied to HTTP but I like the explicit nature. Notice the ResponseStatus annotation that provides what HttpStatus we want associated with this exception.


import org.springframework.http.HttpStatus;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ResponseStatus;

@ResponseStatus(value = HttpStatus.BAD_REQUEST)
public class BadRequestException extends RuntimeException {

    public BadRequestException(String messageIn) {

Using the Exception

Nothing shocking here.

throw new BadRequestException("something descriptive goes here");


Spring lets you just annotate a method on a controller that you have designated to handle exceptions. So yeah, this is the part that wasn’t obvious to me. Sending back a Map tells Spring to just turn it into good JSON.

    public Map<String, String> exceptionHandler(
            Exception e,
            HttpServletRequest httpServletRequestIn,
            HttpServletResponse httpServletResponseIn) {
        Map<String, String> map = new HashMap<>();
        map.put("message", e.getMessage());
        // if not production then show stack trace?

        StringBuffer url = httpServletRequestIn.getRequestURL();
        String queryString = httpServletRequestIn.getQueryString();
        if (queryString != null) {
        map.put("requestUrl", url.toString());

        if (e.getClass().isAnnotationPresent(ResponseStatus.class)) {
            ResponseStatus responseStatus = e.getClass().getAnnotation(ResponseStatus.class);
            HttpStatus httpStatus = responseStatus.value();
            map.put("httpStatus",  httpStatus.getReasonPhrase());


        return map;

This all produces JSON that looks like this along with an HTTP response code of 400.

    "requestUrl": "http://localhost:8080/controller",
    "httpStatus": "Bad Request",
    "message": "something descriptive goes here"