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What are mitigating factors in sentencing?

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Mitigating factors, also known as extenuating circumstances, are facts that relate to a crime or a convicted defendant and support the argument for leniency. These factors are presented in court to reduce someone’s sentence after a conviction.

For example, imagine that a young mother is caught stealing bread and peanut butter from a grocery store to feed her family. Her attorney could point to her motives – which were about survival, not greed – as a mitigating circumstance to the judge in an effort to reduce her sentence.

Some examples of mitigating factors

There are a variety of mitigating factors that can influence the outcome of a case. Some examples include:

  • The defendant is mentally ill and cannot control or appreciate the gravity of their actions. 
  • The defendant has no previous criminal record. 
  • The defendant played a minor role in the crime, such as driving the getaway car after his friends robbed a gas station. 
  • The victim may have played a role in the crime by knowingly assisting the defendant.
  • The defendant’s actions did not result in any harm to anyone. 
  • If the defendant is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may have been impaired when the crime occurred. Because they were in an altered state of awareness, their addiction may be considered a mitigating factor.

Finally, should the defendant express genuine remorse or regret for their actions, this can also be a mitigating factor. Expressing their sorrow for their criminal actions can go a long way toward their request for leniency. 

If you have been convicted of criminal charges, your case isn’t over. You’ll still need experienced legal assistance to identify the mitigating factors in your case.