Exception Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Exception, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Exception?

n. 1) a formal objection during trial (“We take exception, or simply, “exception”)” to the ruling of a judge on any matter, including rulings on objections to evidence, to show to a higher court that the lawyer did not agree with the ruling. In modern practice, it is not necessary “to take exception” to a judge’s adverse ruling, since it is now assumed that the attorney against whom the ruling is made objects. This also keeps the transcribed record from being cluttered with shouts of “exception.” 2) in contracts, statutes or deeds, a statement that some matter is not included.

History and Meaning of Exception

The term "exception" has been a fundamental component of legal discourse for centuries, as it is an essential element of the common law trial process. The use of the term dates back to medieval English courts, where parties could object to an adverse ruling by saying "I except". The concept of exception boils down to a formal legal objection that a party makes, for instance, during a trial to demonstrate to a higher court that the lawyer disagreed with a judge's ruling.

Today, the meaning of exception has evolved, and lawyers may not need to say "I take exception" to indicate they object to a judge's unfavorable decision. The attorney's objection is typically assumed, and the transcribed record should be kept free from unnecessary remarks. Furthermore, in the context of contracts, statements such as "excluding A from the provisions" qualify as exceptions.

Examples of Exception

  1. During the cross-examination, the defense attorney made an exception to the prosecutor's line of questioning, and the judge overruled the objection.
  2. The contract agreement clearly states that the seller guarantees the goods' quality, but it has an exception for any damages caused after the delivery.
  3. The expert witness's testimony was based on hearsay, and the defense counsel made a timely exception to the evidence.

Legal Terms Similar to Exception

  1. Objection - A form of protest in court against the admissibility of evidence or the legality of a decision.
  2. Overrule - To reject a lawyer's argument or objection.
  3. Sustained - When a judge agrees with an attorney's objection or argument.