Even if you’re convicted of a crime, your case isn’t open and shut. You still have to face sentencing. In many cases, judges enjoy significant latitude with the sentences they can impose.
This is when mitigation becomes important. Judges often ask for a “pre-sentencing report” or hold a hearing to determine if there are any factors that should influence the consequences you face. Mitigating factors are anything that, when taken into account, provide a more nuanced look at the circumstances surrounding your offense and tend to tilt the scales of justice toward leniency.
What kinds of things can be considered mitigating factors? Consider the following.
Acceptance of responsibility and remorse
Expressing genuine remorse for ill-considered actions and the damage you may have caused to someone else’s life can be a hugely mitigating factor. Acknowledging what you did wrong demonstrates both insight and a commitment to personal growth. The court is more likely to be lenient when they believe a defendant will be rehabilitated.
Prior good acts and the lack of a criminal record
Your overall good character, as demonstrated by the fact that you don’t have a prior criminal history and that you have contributed positively to your family or community in some way can also be a big influence on a judge. You may be seen as someone who made a regrettable mistake rather than someone without respect for the law.
Mental health factors and voluntary rehabilitation efforts
Many criminal actions, from embezzlement to drug possession, have their roots in untreated (or undiagnosed) mental health problems. Showing the court that you have sought diagnosis and treatment for a substance abuse disorder or whatever chemical imbalance was influencing your thinking can demonstrate your commitment to positive change.
Justice is supposed to be fair, but “fair” is often decided based on what information is given to a judge and/or jury – and how that information is presented. Understanding more about how mitigation may play into your defense can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.