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Generally, to allocute in law means "to speak out formally." In the field of apologetics, allocution is generally done in defense of a belief. In politics, one may allocute before a legislative body in an effort to influence their position on an issue. In law, it is generally meant to state specifically and in detail what one did and for what reason, often in relation to commission of a crime.

Allocution is sometimes required of a defendant who pleads guilty to a crime in a plea bargain in exchange for a reduced sentence. In this instance, allocution can serve to provide closure for victims or their families. In principle, it removes any doubt as to the exact nature of the defendant's guilt in the matter.

The term "allocution" is generally only in use in jurisdictions in the United States, though there are vaguely similar processes in other common law countries. In many other jurisdictions it is for the defense lawyer to mitigate on his client's behalf, and the defendant himself will rarely have the opportunity to speak. The right of victims to speak at sentencing is also sometimes referred to as allocution.[1]


Specific jurisdictions


United States

In most United States jurisdictions a defendant is allowed the opportunity to allocute—that is, explain himself—before sentence is passed. Some jurisdictions hold this as an absolute right, and in its absence, a sentence may potentially be overturned, with the result that a new sentencing hearing must be held. In the federal system, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(i)(4) provides that the court must "address the defendant personally in order to permit the defendant to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence."[2] The Federal Public Defender recommends that defendants speak in terms of how a lenient sentence will be sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the statutory directives set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).[3]


In Australia the term "allocutus" will be used. It will be used by the Clerk of Arraigns or another formal associate of the Court. It will generally be phrased as "Prisoner at the Bar, you have been found Guilty by a jury of your peers of the offense of XYZ. Do you have anything to say as to why the sentence of this Court should not now be passed upon you?". The defense counsel will then make a "plea in mitigation" (also called "submissions on penalty") wherein he or she will attempt to mitigate the relative seriousness of the offense and heavily refer to and rely upon the defendant's previous good character and good works (if any). In Australia, the right to make a plea in mitigation is absolute. If a judge or magistrate were to refuse to hear such a plea, or obviously fail to properly consider it, then the sentence would, without doubt, be overturned on appeal.

In media

Allocution refers to the one way dissemination of information through a media channel. It assumes that one party has an unlimited amount of information (usually through some kind of expertise) and can act as the ‘information services provider’ (pg 268) while the other party acts as the ‘information services consumer’ (Bordewijk and Kaam, 1986:268)

The term allocution differs from distribution as distribution implies that the original party loses some kind of control over the information. One party can tell many others a piece of information without losing it themselves, the original information store never becomes empty. (Bordewijk and Kaam, 1986:268)

The original party holds all control over the information. They decide when, how and how much information to give to the information services consumer. The consumer has no control over it in this model.

Examples of this type of communication include radio and traditional television programs such as the news.

Bordewijk, Jan L. and van Kaam, Ben (2002) [1986] “Towards a New Classification of Tele-Information Services,” in Denis McQuail (ed.) McQuail’s Reader in Mass Communication Theory, Sage, London, pp. 113–24

Roman Catholic Magisterium

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, an Allocution is a solemn form of address or speech from the throne employed by the Pope on certain occasions. It is delivered only in a secret consistory at which the cardinals alone are present. The term allocutio was used by the ancient Romans for the speech made by a commander to his troops, either before a battle or during it, to animate and encourage them. The term when adopted into ecclesiastical usage retained much of its original significance. An allocution of the Pope often takes the place of a manifesto when a struggle between the Holy See and the secular powers has reached an acute stage.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Nicholson, Keith D. (1994-1995), Would You Like More Salt with That Wound - Post-Sentence Victim Allocution in Texas, 26, St. Mary's L.J., pp. 1103, 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia

External links

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Allocution". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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From Latin allocūtiō (address)


  • (UK) IPA: /alə(ʊ)ˈkjuːʃən/




allocution (plural allocutions)

  1. A formal speech, especially one which is regarded as authoritative and forceful.
    • 1904, Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, ch. 2:
      The Minister of War, in a barrack-square allocution to the officers of the artillery regiment he had been inspecting, had declared the national honour sold to foreigners.
  2. (chiefly US, law) The question put to a convicted defendant by a judge after the rendering of the verdict in a trial, in which the defendant is asked whether he or she wishes to make a statement to the court before sentencing; the statement made by a defendant in response to such a question; the legal right of a defendant to make such a statement.
    • 1997, Caren Myers, "Encouraging Allocution at Capital Sentencing: A Proposal for Use Immunity," Columbia Law Review, vol. 97, no. 3, p. 788 n6:
      The term "allocution" refers to the personal right of a defendant to make a statement on his own behalf in an attempt to affect sentencing. . . . The word "allocution" is also frequently used . . . to describe the statement made by a defendant during a guilty plea proceeding.
  3. (chiefly US, law) The legal right of a victim, in some jurisdictions, to make a statement to a court prior to sentencing of a defendant convicted of a crime causing injury to that victim; the actual statement made to a court by a victim.
    • 1989, Karen L. Kennard, "The Victim's Veto: A Way to Increase Victim Impact on Criminal Case Dispositions," California Law Review, vol. 77, no. 2, p. 427 n49:
      As of July, 1985, 19 states permitted victim allocution at the sentencing phase of criminal trials.
  4. (Roman Catholicism) A pronouncement by a pope to an assembly of church officials concerning a matter of church policy.
    • 2004, Thomas Shannon and James Walter, "Implications of the Papal Allocution on Feeding Tubes," The Hastings Center Report, vol. 34, no. 4, p. 18:
      The recent papal allocution To the International Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatment and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas has been the occasion for much discussion concering the use of artificial feeding tubes for nutrition and hydration.

Related terms


  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996.



Borrowed from Latin adlocutio.


  • IPA: /alɔkysjɔ̃/


allocution f. (plural allocutions)

  1. (short) speech


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