Special Circumstances Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Special Circumstances?

(n) Special circumstances are the criminal activities which are executed with wanton disregard to the society and human feelings, which portrays the contempt of the culprit in social wellbeing which warrant extreme punishments. For example chopping down the victim into pieces after killing, raping a minor etc.

History and Meaning of Special Circumstances

Special circumstances are a term used in criminal law to refer to specific circumstances or aggravating factors in a crime that warrant harsher punishment than the maximum sentence for the crime alone. These are crimes that exhibit a wanton disregard for society and human feelings, which show the offender's contempt for social wellbeing, deserve extreme punishment.

Other terms related to special circumstances include "aggravating factors," "aggravating circumstances," and "qualifying circumstances."

Examples of Special Circumstances

  1. Serial Killers: A person who murders multiple people often under the same set of circumstances, such as a specific time frame or geographic area, may be deemed to have committed their crimes under special circumstances.

  2. Terrorism: A violent crime committed with an intent to harm or terrorize the public may be considered a special circumstance.

  3. Hate Crime: If a crime is motivated by bias or hate, such as racism or homophobia, it may be deemed a special circumstance due to its potential impact on the victim and society at large.

Legal Terms Similar to Special Circumstances

  1. Aggravating Factors: This term refers to any factor that increases the severity of a crime, such as the use of a weapon or the victim's vulnerability.

  2. Mitigating Factors: These are factors that can reduce the severity of a crime, such as the defendant's age, previous criminal history, or mental state at the time of the crime.

  3. Felony Murder: This is a type of murder that occurs during the commission of a felony, such as robbery or arson. It is considered a special circumstance that may result in a harsher sentence.