Rule of Lenity Law and Legal Definition

Rule of Lenity is a judicial doctrine requiring that those ambiguities in a criminal statute relating to prohibition and penalties be resolved in favor of the defendant if it is not contrary to legislative intent. It embodies a presupposition of law to resolve doubts in the enforcement of a penal code against the imposition of a harsher punishment. The courts while construing an ambiguous criminal statute that sets out multiple or inconsistent punishments should resolve the ambiguity in favor of the more lenient punishment.