Legal Dictionary

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Extenuating Circumstance

An extenuating circumstance is a situation or fact that does not justify or excuse a crime, but reduces the degree of culpability, and therefore may lessen the punishment for the crime. For example, if a woman, who has been a long time victim of domestic violence, one day kills her husband, the fact that she has endured years of abuse will probably be considered an extenuating circumstance, and she may receive a lesser sentence. Extenuating circumstances are also referred to as “mitigating circumstances.”