Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

What are aggravating and mitigating factors in a criminal case?

If you've been charged with a crime, you'd probably ideally prefer to either have the charges dropped or be acquitted.

But what if that doesn't happen? If you're convicted, you may find yourself listening to the "aggravating" and "mitigating" factors associated with your case.

Aggravating factors are presented by the prosecution to try to show the judge that you deserve no breaks and are a far worse person than your crimes may even suggest. Mitigating factors, by comparison, are part of your defense. They often help give your actions some kind of context that encourages a judge to deal with you as leniently as possible.

What are some possible mitigating factors? While every situation is different, a defense attorney may point to things like:

  • The relatively minor role that you played in a crime (like delivering a package of drugs to a dealer, rather than dealing yourself)
  • Any issues in your past that might have led to criminal activity, like a history of being abused by your co-defendant spouse
  • Any psychological issues or mental health problems that may have influenced your decisions, such as alcoholism or drug addiction
  • The immediate circumstances surrounding the crime, such as provocation by the victim, stress from losing your job or emotional problems related to your family concerns
  • The lack of a criminal record when a crime is your first offense
  • Your general character, including selfless things that you have done for others or your community
  • Your remorse over the incident, especially in situations where you have decided to plead guilty

It's always wise to approach a case with mitigation in mind. Make sure to discuss these issues with your defense attorney early because they can help direct your overall defense strategy.

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