Extenuating circumstances–also called mitigating factors–are facts or details that are important for fully understanding a situation. With this understanding, the actions a person took in that event might be viewed as less severe, or that person’s culpability in those actions diminished. In a criminal trial, a showing of extenuating circumstances might result in a lower charge or a reduction in punishment, such as a shorter sentence. In civil cases, extenuating circumstances may decrease the amount of damages awarded.
The alternative to extenuating circumstances are aggravating factors, which might increase punishment in a criminal setting.
[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]