Justifications, Excuses, and Mitigating Factors of Crimes

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What Are Justifications, Excuses, and Mitigating Factors?

As part of a criminal defense strategy, a defendant may seek to present evidence which includes justifications, excuses, or mitigating factors concerning criminal acts. If successfully established, three defenses may work to either negate criminal liability or decrease the sentencing of a criminal case.


If a defendant can present a successful justification for his actions, he will be fully cleared from criminal liability. In other words, society accepts that his otherwise criminal act as appropriate under the circumstances. Here are several examples:


Unlike justifications, excuses don’t negate a defendant's wrongful act. However, while the defendant's act is considered criminal, the defendant lacks moral guilt and is therefore excused from punishment. Here are some examples of excuse defenses:

Mitigating Factors

If mitigating factors are present, the defendant will not be acquitted, but he may be charged with a lesser offense. Mitigating factors usually focus on the defendant's mental state, eliminating the defendant's specific intent. Examples include:

How Can an Attorney Help?

A qualified criminal defense attorney may clarify your specific situation to develop a successful criminal defense strategy. An attorney may examine and recommend various excuses, justifications, and mitigating factors that may decrease criminal liability.

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Last Modified: 09-11-2013 03:44 PM PDT

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