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Mitigating Factors

Mitigating Circumstances in Criminal Cases

Let's review the common question of mitigating circumstances in California criminal cases. What exactly does it mean? How can it impact a case?

In simplest terms, mitigating circumstances are facts surrounding a crime that might reduce one's culpability or overall responsibility for committing it. These are also called "mitigating factors." Notably, mitigating circumstances could substantially reduce a criminal sentence.

Mitigating circumstances could potentially substantially reduce a criminal sentence.

Your California criminal defense lawyer would typically present mitigating circumstances during a misdemeanor and felony sentencing hearing to convince the judge to grant a lesser sentence.

For example, some of the most common mitigating factors include arguing that the alleged victim provoked an attack and that you were acting in self-defense or the defense of another person.

Others include having no prior criminal record or one that is minimal, with only minor offenses. Maybe you voluntarily acknowledged wrongdoing before your arrest or early in the criminal proceeding.

Other mitigating factors include arguing that you only played a minor role in the crime or acted under duress or coercion. Perhaps you only committed the crime to provide the basic needs for your family.

Maybe we can claim you were the victim of extreme childhood trauma and were subjected to neglect or sexual abuse or that you suffer from a mental condition.

Your criminal defense attorney usually offers these mitigating factors into evidence to present a positive image of you and to show that your criminal conduct was out of typical character.

The primary goal is to persuade the judge to use the presented mitigating circumstances to impose a lesser sentence. It is not an attempt to dismiss the criminal case. Conversely, aggravating factors, such as prior convictions and victim injuries, increase culpability and could lead to an enhanced sentence.

Mitigating Factors - Quick Facts

  • Under California law, mitigating circumstances help lessen a defendant's guilt and encourage the judge to be more lenient in sentencing.
  • If you've been convicted of a crime in California, you may not receive the maximum sentence.
  • The judge will often consider certain mitigating circumstances when determining your sentence.
  • This system does excuse or justify the crime but can reduce its severity and the associated penalties.
  • After you are found guilty of a crime, your defense lawyer may be able to present some mitigating factors to lessen the penalties.
  • A defense lawyer's primary objective should be to show any mitigating circumstances in your case and ask the judge to consider them when determining your sentence.
  • Your defense lawyer can present mitigating circumstances during a misdemeanor and felony sentencing hearing.
  • Conversely, aggravating factors, such as prior convictions and victim injuries, increase one's culpability and could lead to an enhanced sentence.
  • Mitigating circumstances are facts surrounding a crime that work to reduce your culpability for committing it.
  • When trying to get the judge to impose a less severe sentence, you might be able to present a relevant mitigating factor to explain your behavior.
  • Mitigating factors are the opposite of aggravating factors, which worsen the crime and often result in harsher sentences.

What are Mitigating Factors?

Mitigating factors are extenuating circumstances that might be used to get a reduced sentence, including the following:

  • Having no criminal record.
  • Playing a minor role in the crime.
  • Struggles with addictions.
  • Under duress, provoked, or acted in self-defense.
  • Committed shoplifting to provide food for your family.
  • You took responsibility for the crime early in the investigation.
  • The gun you used to commit the crime was unloaded.
  • You are the victim of extreme childhood trauma.
  • You suffer from a mental illness that reduces responsibility.
  • You were too young to understand the consequences of your acts.
  • You suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mitigating factors are conditions related to a crime that does not absolve the defendant of guilt. Still, it can reduce the severity of the punishment.

Mitigating factors can humanize the defendant and provide context for their behavior. They are not intended to evoke the judge's sympathy. Instead, they should directly or indirectly relate to your culpability in committing the offense.

Mitigating circumstances often attest to a person's character or demonstrate how they acted out of character in committing the crime. The main objective is to show why it would not serve the interest of justice to impose the most severe penalties.

What are Some Examples of Mitigating Factors?

Judges may consider a wide range of mitigating circumstances in California criminal cases when deciding the severity of the sentence, such as the following:

  • If you have no prior criminal record, the court might consider your crime an isolated incident, not a behavior pattern.
  • The facts of the case might support a claim that the alleged victim was the aggressor who initiated the incident.
  • If the victim provoked you to commit a crime, this might be considered because you would likely not have committed the crime otherwise.
  • You might be able to argue that you were acting in reasonable self-defense or defense of others.
  • It may be a mitigating factor if you committed the crime under duress or out of necessity.
  • Your age at the time of the crime, which is 26 or younger, can be considered a mitigating factor when determining a sentence.
  • You might be able to show evidence of good character, such as community service and steady employment.
  • You might be able to show that you were only a minor actor or passive participant in the crime.
  • The judge may consider demonstrating genuine remorse or regret for your actions as a mitigating factor.
  • If you cooperated with police during their criminal investigation, the court may view it favorably.
  • If you were suffering from a mental illness at the time of the crime, it might demonstrate a direct connection between the illness and your actions.
  • If an offense occurred due to a drug or alcohol addiction, then it may be considered a mitigating factor by the court.
  • Addictions are often considered mental health issues. Any claims of addiction must include an evaluation and plan by a medical professional.
  • If you can show the judge that you are attempting to improve yourself and change your behavior, this might be considered during sentencing.
  • Participating in counseling, taking prescribed medications, attending rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or taking other measures to address your addiction may be considered.

Every criminal case is unique, and the effectiveness of mitigating circumstances will depend on the details of the case. Our California criminal defense lawyers can examine your situation and determine whether mitigating factors are relevant to your strategy. Contact our law firm for more information. us for a case review. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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