Being arrested for a serious crime may leave you worried about what could happen if you are convicted. Fortunately, judges are required to consider several factors before sentencing a convicted defendant. One of these factors is the mitigating circumstances that may be used to give a defendant a more lenient sentence. Mitigation is a multi-step process that can provide a convicted defendant with more sentencing options. If you or a family member was arrested, and you are concerned about receiving a heavy sentence, you should speak with an experienced defense lawyer today. Philadelphia post-conviction lawyer Lloyd Long is here to explain which mitigating factors can reduce criminal sentences in Pennsylvania.
What is Mitigation During Criminal Sentencing?
Mitigation occurs just before a defendant is sentenced. Mitigation allows the defendant to present facts about themselves to persuade the court to impose a lower sentence. Mitigation is used in varying types of cases, such as non-violent crimes and serious felonies or capital cases. The purpose of mitigation is to decrease a criminal sentence and possibly obtain probation for a person convicted of a crime.
A probation officer or the defendant will likely be responsible for presenting background that qualifies as personally traumatic events which can be considered by the court to mitigate their sentence. This is accomplished on a case-by-case basis. However, presenting this evidence may be difficult for a defendant who has a troubled past.
Types of Mitigating Factors for Sentencing Hearings in Pennsylvania
A defendant must present compelling circumstances if he or she wishes to have their sentence mitigated. This means all aspects of a defendant’s life may be introduced for a judge to analyze. The court will typically look at two categories of evidence: information about the offense and information about the offender.
One common mitigating factor that can be considered is the defendant’s role in the crime. If a defendant played a minor role in the crime he or she committed, this fact might operate as a mitigating factor. For example, being a low-level street dealer is not as severe as engaging in drug trafficking in Philadelphia. Alternatively, if the defendant was the mastermind of a large criminal conspiracy, this could justify a higher sentence.
Victim culpability is another example of a mitigating circumstance. Victim culpability occurs when a victim initiates or participates in a crime. For example, if the victim attacked the defendant and the defendant responded with more force than was necessary to defend himself or herself, then this could be considered a mitigating circumstance.
If the defendant committed a crime that did not hurt anyone and executed the crime in a manner that was unlikely to cause someone harm, this is a potential mitigating circumstance.
The lack of a criminal record is a very common mitigating factor used to reduce a criminal sentence. A minor criminal record is also often used as a mitigating factor. First-time and small-time offenders often get lower sentences than repeat offenders and high-level “career criminals.”
Another example of a mitigating factor is when a defendant commits a crime out of relative necessity. An example of a crime of relative necessity is if the defendant stole food from a grocery store to feed his or her starving family.
Drug or alcohol addiction is another possible example of a mitigating factor in Pennsylvania. While addiction cannot justify committing a crime, it may be used to mitigate a sentence if a defendant exhibited a legitimate effort to rehabilitate but relapsed and committed a crime while under the influence.
A troubled personal history is another mitigating factor that could be presented in court. A defendant could argue that his or her violent acts were in part attributable to the abuse they suffered from family members or other parties.
Accepting responsibility for your actions and showing remorse is always a good mitigating factor. Defendants who are honest about their criminal actions and are polite in court are better off than defendants who show no remorse. Acknowledging the harm you caused often shows a judge that you are serious about moving past a criminal lifestyle and deserve a lowered sentence.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Fighting for Sentence Reductions
If you or a family member is facing conviction for a crime and wants to discuss potential options to reduce a criminal sentence, you should consult with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney. Criminal attorney Lloyd Long is prepared to help you fight your case. Lloyd Long will tirelessly work to discover and present mitigating factors in an effort to have your sentence reduced. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call (215) 666-0381 or contact us online.