defense attorney clinton j. roberts

What Are Mitigating Factors in Criminal Sentencing?

Judges are obligated to consider all information in a conviction before sentencing in criminal cases. Prosecutors present evidence of aggravating factors to support tough penalties. A defense attorney will offer mitigating circumstances to persuade the court to be lenient and lessen the sentence.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the criminal justice system, Clinton J. Roberts & Associates worked on hundreds of cases. The following examples highlight mitigating factors that the court may consider during the sentencing of the defendant.

Criminal Conduct Outside Sentencing Guidelines

Examples of criminal conduct atypical and outside the heartland of the sentencing guidelines are—

  • No prior criminal record
  • Committed offense to aid a family member in financial stress or health issues
  • Committed the crime to aid themselves for health reasons
  • Theft of money to support substance use triggered by a mental health disorder

Defendant’s Background Circumstances

  • “Aberrant” behavior – no previous similar conduct and “outside” defendant’s true character
  • Background suggests they are unlikely to re-offend
  • Adolescence of young mental age – their brain development resulted in impulsivity, the recklessness that otherwise would not be the case in older persons’ with fully developed brains
  • Excellent employment history
  • Suffered “extraordinary physical or sexual harm” as a child
  • Exposed to domestic abuse such as “battered woman syndrome”
  • “Survivor” of a tragedy that led to mental health problems – defendant has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of military service that involved combat

Post Offense Factors

  • Defendant exhibits extreme remorse
  • “Super” acceptance of responsibility and substantial efforts at rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation post offense – defendant entered into treatment for mental health issues and substance use problems
  • Post offense restitution – defendant paid back money taken from the victim
  • Cooperation with law enforcement to prosecute others

Family and Community Considerations

  • Extraordinary family situations or family responsibilities – a single parent with dependent children, the sole support for a family, and caregiver for infirm family member requiring defendant to remain in the community
  • Good deeds in church, community service, extraordinary efforts saving the lives of others, and helping the disadvantaged
  • Extraordinary military service and extraordinary conduct in combat

Other Factors

  • Is an addict who delivered small quantities of drugs to support the habit and not a director or manager of the offense
  • Behavior did not result in harm to another – perceived to be “lesser harm”
  • Diminished capacity such as mental retardation
  • Gambling disorder
  • Vulnerable to abuse if sentenced to prison – the defendant is gay or was a member of law enforcement
  • Cultural heritage issues – defendant is from a foreign country where the behavior that resulted in their arrest was culturally accepted
  • Immigration issues where the defendant would be deported if sentenced to a term of incarceration and could face harsh treatment in the country of origin

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