special circumstances

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Some common uses of the term “special circumstances” in a legal sense include: 

  • In the context of criminal law, special circumstances refer to those situations where criminal activities are executed with high disregard to society and/or life. These are the actions of the accused or the situation under which the crime was committed for which state statutes allow or require imposition of a more severe punishment. “Special circumstances” in murder cases may result in the death penalty being awarded. 
  • In the context of bankruptcy, this case from Virginia, explains that “special circumstances” sufficient to rebut ‘means testpresumption of abuse,  are circumstances that are both unusual and necessary, in the sense that they leave a debtor with no reasonable alternative.

[Last updated in September of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]