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mitigating circumstances

n. in criminal law, conditions or happenings which do not excuse or justify criminal conduct, but are considered out of mercy or fairness in deciding the degree of the offense the prosecutor charges or influencing reduction of the penalty upon conviction. Example: a young man shoots his father after years of being beaten, belittled, sworn at and treated without love. "Heat of passion" or "diminished capacity" are forms of such mitigating circumstances.

See also: diminished capacity  heat of passion  Twinkie defense 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications