Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary

Mitigating Circumstances

Information about the defendant that does not justify or excuse a criminal act or civil wrong, but that may reduce the defendant's degree of culpability. In criminal law, juries consider mitigating circumstances when deciding whether to impose the death sentence in a capital case, and judges may consider them when selecting a sentence. In civil cases, mitigating circumstances may reduce the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff.
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