Whether you have been convicted at trial or decided to plead guilty, your defense isn’t done. In fact, it may just be beginning.
You can expect the prosecutor to offer some justification for making your sentence harsher, while your defense will focus on the circumstances in your case which support leniency. These are called “mitigating factors” and they can be a powerful way to sway the court into imposing a reduced sentence.
What will the court consider?
Generally speaking, the court is free to consider anything that is relevant. The door is wide open and each situation is unique. However, these are some of the most commonly presented mitigating factors:
- Your lack of any prior criminal record: If you have never been in trouble with the law beyond a few traffic tickets, your current offense may be more easily viewed as an aberration or an isolated event that was driven by unusual circumstances.
- You accept responsibility and show remorse: The more proactive you are about taking responsibility for any harm you may have done – and the more genuinely remorseful you appear – the more likely the court will decide that you can be rehabilitated.
- You cooperated with the authorities: If you took the opportunity you were given to help the authorities with an investigation or to testify against another defendant, you can benefit when it comes to your own sentencing.
- You are suffering from addiction: Alcoholism, drug use and gambling are all addictions, and they can drive criminal behavior. If you’re able to acknowledge your problem and are willing to get treatment, the court may consider that as an alternative to incarceration.
- You had untreated mental health issues: Numerous psychological disorders can cause distorted or impaired thinking and lead to poor choices. If a mental health disorder may have contributed to your actions, the court may decide that treatment is more important than punishment.
- You were under some kind of duress: Desperate people do desperate things. If, for example, you stole money from your employer to pay bills while your spouse was ill, the court will almost certainly consider that as a mitigating factor.
Regardless of how your criminal case plays out, you always want to keep mitigation in mind – just in case you don’t get an acquittal. A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can help you better understand which mitigating factors apply to your situation.