Why does my childhood matter to my lawyer?

As a defendant in a criminal case, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of a guilty verdict. Part of your defense becomes the story of the context surrounding the events of the crime. This approach is referred to as mitigation, and it involves an explanation of what the court should consider when determining sentencing. The goal of mitigation is to reduce sentencing based upon the defendant’s unique circumstances.

To offer a compelling mitigation argument, the defense attorney conducts a thorough interview. They will compile information about criminal history, education history and mental health. Perhaps even more important, however, is the story of your childhood.

Could your childhood experiences be mitigating factors?

The CDC and Kaiser-Permanente did a study from 1995-1997 called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. Adverse childhood experiences include early and frequent experiences with abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, poverty, discrimination, household incarceration, household mental illness and parental separation.

This study showed that there is a direct correlation between adverse experiences and negative health outcomes. Although the study does not show a direct connection between a high ACE score and crime, a high ACE score does increase the likelihood of substance abuse, mental health challenges and criminal behavior later in life.

Understanding the role that adverse childhood experiences may have played in your lifestyle can add meaningful context to the circumstances of the criminal behavior and offer guidance to dispensing a compassionate and rehabilitative sentence. Your attorney will act with respect and integrity when sharing this personal information in court.

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