Understanding Mitigating Factors and Your Case
Every criminal case is unique. When an individual is facing a criminal charge, his or her story is different from that of another individual facing the same charge. There could be different circumstances surrounding the case, different motives at play, different circumstances for the alleged victim, or a different level of harm dealt to the victim. When the case is presented in court, both sides may present every fact they feel is relevant. These facts can impact the severity of the sentence the convicted defendant faces.
When relevant facts demonstrate a greater level of criminal intent or harm dealt, they are known as aggravating factors. The opposite, facts that show a reduced level of criminal intent or harm associated with an alleged offense, are known as mitigating factors.
Examples of Mitigating Factors
Mitigating factors that can impact a convicted individual’s sentence include:
- A low level of participation in the offense;
- Victim culpability. This means that the victim of the offense was involved in activities that increased his or her likelihood of becoming a victim, such as an individual who willingly engages in a fistfight and then claims he or she was attacked;
- A lack of harm to the victim. Though the intent to harm the victim existed, the defendant’s failure to cause harm can be a mitigating factor in his or her case;
- Addiction. If the defendant’s actions occurred because of his or her substance addiction, the addiction may be a mitigating factor in the case; and
- Unusual circumstances. If an individual is determined to have behaved in a certain way because of high stress or a similar circumstance, this may be a mitigating factor.
How Mitigating Factors Affect Criminal Sentences
Mitigating factors reduce the severity of a convicted defendant’s sentence. Sometimes, a mitigating factor is strong enough to render a charge invalid, such as a defendant successfully demonstrating that he or she acted in self defense to invalidate a battery charge. In other cases, the individual can still be found guilty, but may be found guilty of a lesser charge or face a reduced sentence.
Each charge level has a range of possible penalties, rather than one specific penalty for every individual convicted of that charge. For example, a Class 1 felony is punishable by four to 15 years in prison and a fine that could be as high as $25,000. Possession of heroin may be charged as a Class 1 felony. A mitigating factor, like the lack of previous drug convictions on the defendant’s record, can push his or her sentence closer to four years in prison than to 15.
Work with an Experienced Geneva Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you are charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced Naperville criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to start developing an effective legal defense strategy. Mitigating factors can substantially change the sentence you face with your charge. To learn more, contact our team at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today to set up your initial legal consultation in our office.