In any criminal case, the ideal resolution is either a total dismissal of the charges or acquittal at trial. There are times, however, when that outcome simply isn’t possible.
At that point, the defense often looks to mitigate the resulting sentence. A mitigating factor is anything that tends to put a defendant’s actions in a sympathetic light – because a sympathetic court can be more lenient when it comes to sentencing.
What are some examples of mitigating factors?
Every defendant’s situation is different, so what might apply to one may not be useful to another, but some common examples of mitigation include:
- Acceptance of responsibility: When a defendant seems genuinely remorseful for their actions, that demonstrates their willingness to take responsibility. Courts often cite that as a mitigating factor.
- Cooperation with law enforcement: When defendants provide the authorities with useful information or assist with the prosecution of others through truthful testimony, that can be taken into account.
- Lack of a prior criminal record: A first-time offender is more likely to be viewed as a good person who simply made a bad decision, rather than a career criminal.
- The defendant’s youth: Similarly, a young person’s inexperience and immaturity can be considered, since the court may recognize that young people can be impulsive.
- Mental health issues: Untreated mental health problems and addictions can lead to all kinds of criminal activity, including white collar crimes. When a defendant voluntarily seeks treatment, that can encourage the court to be lenient.
- Restitution: If the crimes were financial, the fact that a defendant has or intends to provide restitution to the victims for their losses can be seen as a positive mark in their favor.
If you’ve been charged with an offense and you’re worried that conviction is inevitable, learning more about mitigation strategies may help you to adjust your expectations as your lawyer strives to secure a favorable outcome on your behalf.