mitigating factor

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A mitigating factor, also called a mitigating circumstance or extenuating circumstance, is any fact or circumstance that lessens the defendant’s severity or culpability of a criminal offense. Unlike justification or excuse defenses, mitigating factors only affect the defendant’s sentence. Mitigating factors include an ability for the criminal to reform, developmental disability, an addiction to illegal substances or alcohol that contributed to the criminal behavior, and past good deeds, among many others. Recognition of particular mitigating factors varies by jurisdiction.

See also: aggravating factorcriminal procedure, and the death penalty.

[Last updated in July of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]