Although many people think about the law being black and white, the truth is that the criminal justice system exists in a million shades of gray. While the law does forbid certain activities, there are circumstances in which those same behaviors are legal or at least not criminal.
It is also true that someone who is guilty of a crime may have a personal motive or history that makes the offense either worse in the eyes of the courts or possibly lessens that individual’s personal responsibility.
Circumstantial factors that increase someone’s legal culpability for a crime are aggravating factors. Using a weapon during a mugging or having kids in the car during a drunk driving offense are potential aggravating factors. Mitigating factors, on the other hand, are circumstances that reduce someone’s criminal culpability.
Mitigating circumstances can influence your sentencing
In many cases, the primary purpose of introducing mitigating evidence is to secure a lighter sentence after a guilty plea or a conviction. Showing that you were under extreme pressure, acting under duress or were otherwise influenced by outside force could all help sway the courts toward leniency when determining how to punish you.
Mitigating evidence often requires development
You can’t just take the stand and make unsubstantiated claims in order to get a better sentence after a conviction. You need to present something compelling to the court, such as testimony from witnesses or statements by mental health care professionals that reinforce your claims.
Partnering with an attorney who has familiarity with mitigation tactics as part of a broader criminal defense strategy can greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome during court.