extenuating circumstance

or mitigating circumstance

In law, circumstance that diminishes the culpability of one who has committed a criminal offense. In many Anglo-American legal systems, provocation of the accused by the victim can reduce a charge of first-degree murder to second-degree murder or to manslaughter. In Britain, a charge of murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the accused is found to be suffering diminished capacity (see diminished responsibility). The Italian penal code allows consideration of motives of honour. Extenuating circumstances also are a factor in many civil actions.

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