Exculpatory

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Information that increases a defendant’s probability of innocence or absolutely relieves them of liability. Often used to describe evidence in a criminal trial that justifies, excuses, or creates reasonable doubt about a defendant’s alleged actions or intentions.

Conversely, inculpatory evidence demonstrates culpability or legal responsibilty for a given act.

The Brady Rule (established in Brady v. Maryland (1963))  requires that, in order to honor the U.S Constitution’s guarantee of due process to defendants, prosecutors must reveal any exculpatory evidence they discover to defendants.

Many contracts, wills, and trusts contain exculpatory clauses aimed at protecting certain parties from liability for negligence or wrongful acts.

Related terms:

Burden of proof

Criminal law

Discovery

Evidence

Excuse

Exculpatory clause

Exculpatory evidence

Fifth Amendment

Innocent

Justification

Self-incrimination

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]